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Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Sun

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
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Jul 9, 2015

Alaska

I will NEVER cruise with Norwegian again!!!! Food was not as expected. We opted for the upgraded dining and were not able to even make reservations to some of the restaurants. One evening it took forever just to get a glass of water then when we placed our order it took an hour to get our food. Upon taking the first bite when it finally arrived we realized that every persons food at our table was completely cold!!! Almost ALL of the desserts consisted

of jello/ pudding/ whipped topping! Our port of Skagway was cancelled because our Captain didn't feel he could dock the boat due to winds. There were 2 other cruise lines that were docking boats that were larger than ours. We were taken to a town, "Haines" which had NOTHING for us to do. Entertainment was AWFUL- same things over and over. Dance floor was way to small and chairs were jammed up on each other in several areas. They were so close that often no one could even squeeze by to sit in them. AWFUL experience! DON'T waste your money on this ship and I would be hard pressed to even use the cruise line again!!! Ruby Tuesday's has better food and we had the upgraded dining!!! Very adequate. Housekeeping was awesome! Terrible! Same thing over and over. Dance floor was way to small!!! Gastineau Guiding Company was awesome! Great guides and service. The best part of our cruise. StepIntoAlaska.com is their website. Brian Hild is the best as a guide! Really disappointed in the cruise line. Alaska is absolutely beautiful but the cruise was a waste of our time and money. We will not book another cruise with Norwegian!

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Jun 17, 2015

Alaska

Just finished trip on SUN roundtrip to Alaska from Vancouver. (Returned Memorial day) We Liked 6A deck. Outside window. You Enter from 7th floor, down side stairs. Quiet in halls. Not busy. But Heater/AC Vent in cabin loud & blows hard constantly. Cant turn down. Sinuses hated it! And Noisy! Decibel reading 56 laying in Bed. That is like always having the tv on medium. No relief! DB by Room vent 70!!!!! Db from bathroom vent

67. (At home our house is 30 when house quiet.) So this is NOT a Quiet relaxing cabin! Not enough washywashy employees. Maybe 2 outside Garden cafe. Everywhere else they relied on self serve pumps on wall that FEW Canadians & tourists used. And there were Lots of hackers & coughers onboard. Sun needs to Enforce & Make Mandatory. Insist guests use! (I have more on that at End.) Carlos bakery/Lavazza, 3 workers ignored us in line & served walkups at counter. One worker actually argued with me about what I ordered after waiting patiently for 15 mins. I finally said out loud, "So this is how you do it now? Take cuts & get served first?" All I wanted was a Large Nonfat Latte. 3 words. I said it twice. He gave me a regular & insisted I ordered the Same as lady behind me. Seriously? Now Im mad. So I then asked for his Mgrs Name to report. Which I wrote up on a Comment card as I never found the person. The men gave Very lousy service & Rude. Incorrect orders. I heard couple other people mention, Watch them, they get orders wrong. So true. Casino smokey & small. Very few Video poker machines. Maybe dozen? Only 6 Super star. Mg/md. Many people waiting to play. Sometimes never, cant get on the whole night! Only the last night was there sufficient machine availability. Lotsa looky-loos playing 1 coin, or keno on SStars. Ugh Then there was the Newbie idiot who cashed out after Every hit, cuz thats his "system". Yeah whatever.... I was looking forward to spending time at the Art auctions. Nope. Not as good as other ship auctions, fer sure. Constantine the Art Auctioneer rarely smiled& talked condescending to employees & Guests. It was uncomfortable to watch at times. Where On the Jewel last month, I attended 4 Auctions. Very well done & educational. Not on Sun. Probably worst of the ships auctions Ive attended. He Talked way too much about the Priciest paintings. So, As usual, Nobody bid on those, so all our time wasted. This happened Over & over. Dude Took 3 hours at first one alone. Too long. Redundant. Other ship Auctioneers much better & better attitude! I Didn't win squat on any drawings either. Ive won almost every other time. What was different? He Gave away wayyy too many tix for cheering him. Meh. And an Art Gal lied to me about Not knowing If there would be More auctions? Oh yeah?? I KNEW there were more auction days. So, Trying the Hard sell. Frown on this. Happy note...Ship music very good selection. Large library. Hardly repeats. Mostly light rock. 60-90's They had to cancel 2 big nightly event Shows cuz singer sick & No backups. Had comedian again. He's good. Perhaps more Comedy nights, less relying on ship employees. Don't go on this ship for Ent. It ain't happening. Who plans this stuff? First 2 days at sea hardly any events. Only 1 art auction.. Last sea day 3 good events, All at 2:00. Why? All same time??? Scheduling lousy! No bridge observation area. Weve seen the bridge on all our other ships. Best part of Alaska cruise? We enjoyed the ports. We lucked out with the weather, sunny & warm in ports. Great Scenery. Glaciers. Lotsa Whales. Touring, Mostly on our own. Lots of walking. Saw a few museums, etc. No ship tours needed really. We did MDR mostly & paid $30- each for Cagneys on the last night. Filet mignon & Wagyu beef sliders, Fabulous. Just like we remember on the other Ncl ships. Overview, Sun is Fine cruise ship if expectations low, you're New, or all you want to do is eat & veg. (But Not in cabin cuz you are Blown constantly & LOUD vent.) I really hope their thermostats or Fans get fixed when Drydocked. (We DID have an engineer come to our cabin, but didn't, or couldn't change anything.) Sun is a Med. ship, but very little to do. Pool area was cold & windy outside. Hey it was Alaska. Sun NeedsTLC when dry dock next year. Needs it. Sun is a Good ship to get from Point A to Point B. Went to Doc after flight home, who Confirmed what I thought. Too many coughing Canadians... They GOT me! Not enough washy-washy, didnt help. Meh. Thanks Sun. We will try to remember the few highlights, over many, many Low ones.

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Apr 12, 2015

If you want an adult cruise, do not pick this ship!

Out of the 2000 persons on the ship, 400 were children. Our cabin was located next door to the teen center/teen disco, so we did not get any sleep. Activities lasted in the teen center until 1:00 a.m., then the teenagers ran through the hallway screaming and partying. We complained to security and requested to change cabins but were not accommodated. We had to call security every night about the noise and the children running through the halls,

but they ship never took any proactive measures to prevent it from happening. The overall cleanliness of the ship was just fair. The ship steward was extremely nice and most of the wait staff in the restaurants were pleasant. We had one rude waiter and some overcooked food, but overall the food was decent. Our biggest complaint was that the ship staff allowed the children and teenagers to run wild disturbing the patrons who did not have children aboard. There were no adult only areas on the ship. The children cut lines and handled the food in the buffet lines in a very unsanitary way. I would be hesitant to ever book a Norwegian Cruise Line cruise ever again. If we cruise in the future, I would be more apt to consider a cruise line that caters to an older clientele, like Holland America. Also the disembarkment procedure was a bit of a zoo. They allowed people who wanted to carry off their own luggage to leave first, which was nice, but it turned out to be nearly the entire ship. There were not enough ship staff members assisting with disembarkment.

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By Bea_CR

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Sep 25, 2013

Alaska

Frankly, I am shocked by the reviews I have read. I am extremely picky, my husband and I frequent five star plus restaurants and resorts in the U.S. and internationally. I was very hesitant to go on a cruise due to so many negative reviews. I was completely wrong, the cruise was great and Alaska was amazing. The main dining room and buffets had fresh fruits, vegetable s, and fish with a small neighborhood restaurant atmosphere and quality.

If you want 5 star dining, go to the specialty restaurants they are well worth it. Considering we spend $100 on a good meal at home, upgrading from the included dinning rooms for $40-$60 was a good deal. Our cabin was spotless and our cabin steward was amazing. He knew our name from the first time we entered our room. He kept the room spotless and well stocked without us asking. A warning, I did not pay attention to the fact that we had a shower curtain and not the wall like at home and flooded our bathroom while washing my hair. Our steward was great and laughed when I tried to apologizing saying, I flood the bathroom sometime too in the my mall shower. I loved a new show every night, a party to dance or just listen to a great band. At sea, we learned so much and when the rangers boarded the boat we got the most amazing views with information that made understanding the size, history and creation of what we were seeing even more interesting. The views from our balcony were an added plus. Can't miss on the excursions, pick what you like best and be amazed. Don't stand outside on the top of the boat in Misty Fjord while the boat is moving without something covering your ears. I got quiet a head and ear ache from not being wise about very cold air blowing around. Good thing a couple Motrin made me feel better withing 15 minutes of being inside. We boarded the ship within 30 minutes of our early arrival from our hotel and our balcony room was ready and our luggage arrived within another 30 minutes. The staff was unbelievably friendly and efficient. The excursions were worth every cent and booking them the cruise line meant they took us directly to the meeting site without any wait to disembark. The crew made you feel like you were their best friend; they told us about their favorite excursions and even suggested an additional excursion in Anchorage, so we did not sit at the airport for 8 hours. We did one excursion per port and had time before or after to walk around and see each port. I wanted to stay in Skagway longer, this little tiny town had friendly locals, two salmon filled streams, seals waiting to catch the salmon as the returned to the sea, a free historical tour of the town and museum with a park ranger and a lovely park with views over the ocean were worth the walk just outside of the down town area. In Juneau the plane ride over the glaciers, a leisurely walk in the woods next to the glacier and having a fresh salmon lunch with glacier iced cider was one of the most perfect afternoons of our trip.

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Jun 4, 2013

Alaska

Overall, I would do it again. The check in procedure at the port in Whittier was a bit of a nightmare but otherwise everything was smooth sailing. The crew was amazing. It was obvious they wanted everyone to enjoy their cruise. And I understand from talking to some parents that their kids wanted to stay in the kiddy place and not go on family outings, it was that much fun for them. I found the buffet to be a bit of a "cattle call" with too

many people and lines. Having said that, I must also say that the sit down restaurants were wonderful. While there is a sameness of choices throughout the week, everything was absolutely fantastic. The only complain I had was one night my baked potato wasn't cooked enough (but heck, I do that myself at home sometimes). The portions were small but the quality was excellent. I think my husband grew gills he had so much salmon. I had read other reviews about bad food but I found that I really liked the quality at the restaurants. And the portion size turned out to be a good thing because I would have eaten everything they put on my plate and who knows how much weight I might have gained. The lobster was probably the best I have ever had. My room was clean, always, no matter how often I went in there and messed it up. And I got a really cool towel animal every night. I looked forward to seeing what was there in the evenings. The activities were fun...the trivial questions were brutal. I'm usually much better at that sort of thing. And the crew talent show was simply not to be missed. The magician was aweful. I thought the dance crew and the singers were wonderful. There wasn't a single minute of any performance when they didn't put forth 100% effort. We took a bus ride out of Skagway and our driver was amazing. I wish I could remember his name. He told us stories and history and just kept us entertained the entire time. Well, Alaska is just beautiful. That goes without saying. And to see it from atop this magnificient ship was amazing. Our trip up to Alaska was brutal and I got to the ship thinking that the cruise wasn't going to be worth the effort but I was so wrong. The crew were obviously intent on making sure everyone had everything they needed, the ship wasn't overly crowded, we ate until I thought we'd explode (the chocolate buffet was to die for), the entertainment (with the exception of the magician) was really good.

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Apr 28, 2013

Review of Norwegian Sun

Sara Hanna Age: 50 yrs Occupation:Nurse Number of Cruises: 1 Cruise Line: Norwegian Ship: Norwegian Sun Sailing Date: 2015-06-22 Itinerary: Alaska I will NEVER cruise with Norwegian again!!!! Food was not as expected. We opted for the upgraded dining and were not able to even make reservations to some of the restaurants. One evening it took forever just to get a glass of water then when we placed our order it took an hour to get our food. Upon taking

the first bite when it finally arrived we realized that every persons food at our table was completely cold!!! Almost ALL of the desserts consisted of jello/ pudding/ whipped topping! Our port of Skagway was cancelled because our Captain didn't feel he could dock the boat due to winds. There were 2 other cruise lines that were docking boats that were larger than ours. We were taken to a town, "Haines" which had NOTHING for us to do. Entertainment was AWFUL- same things over and over. Dance floor was way to small and chairs were jammed up on each other in several areas. They were so close that often no one could even squeeze by to sit in them. AWFUL experience! DON'T waste your money on this ship and I would be hard pressed to even use the cruise line again!!! Ruby Tuesday's has better food and we had the upgraded dining!!! Very adequate. Housekeeping was awesome! Terrible! Same thing over and over. Dance floor was way to small!!! Gastineau Guiding Company was awesome! Great guides and service. The best part of our cruise. StepIntoAlaska.com is their website. Brian Hild is the best as a guide! Really disappointed in the cruise line. Alaska is absolutely beautiful but the cruise was a waste of our time and money. We will not book another cruise with Norwegian!

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Apr 30, 2012

Carribean

I greatly enjoyed the cruise (Bahamas, St. Thomas, San Juan), but I will say that I enjoyed alone time and did not participate in many of the activities. I had a balcony with my cabin which was a must. The ship was nice, although the cruise overall was not nearly as nice as a previous cruise I took on Celebrity. The food was absolutely awful, the worst part of the cruise. The food at the buffet was usually some unrecognizable foreign cuisine.

The service in the dining rooms was terrible, the air conditioning didn't work on several nights, and sometimes dining there took a couple of hours if you counted waiting to get in. If you are satisfied with a cereal breakfast, a hamburger or salad lunch, and probably paying extra to eat dinner at a restaurant (I never did this), you might like their food. It was nice, clean and the service was fine. There didn't seem to be many of them, but I did not try to got to any. I enjoyed reading and relaxing instead. I won't go on another Norweigian cruise just because the food was so bad. Other than that aspect, the rest of the cruise experience was a lot of fun. I went to Bahamas, St. Thomas, and San Juan. The last day on the cruise island was cancelled due to high winds and waves.

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Apr 9, 2012

Carribean

This is the worse cruise ever! They almost killed 200 passengers on a tender boat - all caused by series of mistakes and general incopetence of the staff. Very limited choices, medium quality. The room was ok, but balcony was all rusted, and dirty. Stateroom service (stewart) was bad. We had to ask for towels several times, the blankets kept disappearing (?), etc. This was actually one thing that we were happy with. They

had lots of options for different ages, and many of them were fun. The shows were bad though... not professional, horrible voices, etc. You are always better off on your own - this is general advice for all cruises. You can save at least 50% and have more flexibility and fun. So overpriced!

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Jan 21, 2012

Western Caribbean

We went on our first cruise, and chose NCL due to the Freestyle concept and the reasonable price. After reading some of the reviews, i began to doubt the wisdom of choice, but could not have been happier. The whole experience was wonderful, the staff friendly, the food was great and the whole ship had a really good vibe to it. We would recommend NCL and the Sun no worries at all. Food: Really good. Buffet was like most buffets but had good

selection, the fruit was very good. Main dining rooms were very good. Service was excellent. Rooms: Really nice. A bit more space than I thought, with plenty of storage, and nice decor and color scheme. The balcony was great for sitting and relaxing, and let in plenty of light. Bed was a good size and comfortable. Entertainment: Didn't do a whole lot of them but what we did was enjoyable. Our first cruise, and we could not have been happier with the Sun and the whole experience, didn't want to get off the ship at the end! The embarkation process was efficient, and the staff friendly and helpful. The food on board was pretty good, and the waiters very friendly and helpful on the whole. We had one guy who was so so but he was the exception. Yes the portion sizes are smaller in the dining rooms, but the quality is very good, and if you are hungry just order 2! My wife thinks their Ceasar Salad is the best she has ever had, and the bread and butter pudding was to die for. Really liked the Freestyle cruising and not have to dress up to the nines for dinner. We had an incredibly relaxing week, and the flexibility with NCL was a big part of that. The ports visited were good choices, each was very different and all interesting and a good experience. Our room steward was excellent, we found our balcony cabin nicely laid out and the decor was very nice, plenty of storage room. There were good eating options and plenty of lounges and bars to enjoy. The ship was a good size for first time cruisers, after a couple of days we knew our way around and it had an intimate feeling without being crowded. The casino was also good to me! We will be back without a doubt!

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Jan 9, 2012

Baltics

Our Norwegian Sun cruise experience was really bad. The restaurants were poor and the food unfortunately was not always safe for consumption. My wife got food poisoning from one of the restaurants on the ship and spent a number of days very sick in our cabin, missing a number of ports. We arranged most shore excursions ourselves as the ship's excursions are overpriced. We lost some of our money on these as my wife could not make some of them due to

being ill. The guy sitting opposite us in the same restaurant was also in the medical center first thing the next morning feeling very sick. Dealing with NCL's customer service was an infuriating and futile experience - they basically robbed me off repeatedly and I only received a response to my complaint four weeks after the cruise ended!! Unbelievable. Needless to say we will NEVER cruise with NCL again as they completely ruined our vacation and made no effort whatsoever to correct their mistakes. Really terrible customer services. Absolutely terrible - my wife got food poisoning from one of the restaurants - no effort was made by NCL to correct the incident - enough said! We had been onboard for a few days and had not eaten anywhere outside of the ship. Standard room - not too bad. Terrible - nothing for our 1 year old at all. No comment - missed some of the cruise ports as my wife was ill. It was a disaster due to a) my wife getting sick from the food onboard and b) NCL's diabolical customer service.

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Jan 2, 2012

Western Caribbean

A very good experience on the NCL Sun. This was the fourth cruise for my wife and me since 1994 (one each on Princess, Celebrity, Holland America, and now Norwegian) first time for a Caribbean itinerary (others were Alaska twice, once to New England/Canada). All have been happy experiences; the NCL Sun probably was closest in feel to the Celebrity Galaxy. The Port Canaveral facility is excellent, made to move a lot of people quickly. From the

time we arrived at the terminal facility (about 12:30 pm) until we walked into our cabin was about 45 minutes. We had a group of six (my wife and me, and parents, aunt, and family friend ranging in age from mid-fifties to early 80s). We had some snafus with the booking agent (not NCL), but the staff at the ship’s guest services desk fixed it quickly and politely. The ship’s layout was a bit confusing at first, but we got the hang of it after a day at sea. Overall, no problems, no complaints related to NCL or the Sun itself. Crew was pleasant, courteous, and helpful. We never stood in a line for what I would call an excessively long time. What looked like a long line to disembark over the gangway at Cozumel actually moved very fast; 10 minutes. Other ports used tenders, and we got on and off quickly. At the end. we chose the fast disembarkation where you schlep your own luggage, and we were off the ship, through passport/customs, and on the street within 30 minutes of being told we could disembark at Port Canaveral. We had a great time. The main restaurants (Four Seasons and Seven Seas) were excellent. We ate most dinners in the Four Seasons and never were disappointed. You do have to ask for the wine list. Pizza on board is very good, as are the pasta bars. Breakfast buffet is great with a lot of choices (the powdered scrambled eggs were awful as is to be expected, but the made-to-order omelettes were excellent). The lunch and dinner buffets are pretty typical, by that I mean acceptably good but not outstanding. There are places to eat all over the ship. The East Meets West steakhouse ($25 cover) was excellent, we all had very good steaks. The only thing that marred this was a large family with three small, unruly, and loud children who got seated at the table next to us, and the parents made little effort to control the children, but that wasn't the staff's fault. The Adagio Italian restaurant had excellent food as well, although we had reservations confirmed for six people but were seated at two adjacent tables, a minor annoyance. Stateroom was large by our experience. We had a veranda stateroom on deck 10, not far behind the bridge. Very little engine vibration or roll could be felt. The ship is very smooth (admittedly, we had great weather). Plenty of storage (we did not use it all). Suitcases fit under the bed. Very clean and well-tended by the cabin steward. I do not agree with NCL's policy of auto-tipping on your bill, but the steward was so good at keeping the cabin clean, towels replaced, etc., that we left extra for him at the end of the week. Ambivalent about the onboard activities, but for the most part, we want a place to relax and some interesting ports to visit. We attended only one evening show in the main theater, and it was typical of cruise ship singing and dancing. No live instrumental musicians, and the dancers were lip-synching, but the four "stars" all sang with varying degrees of ability. Quite loud and over-miked. We don't go on cruises for the on-board entertainment, however, and we don't go to casinos. I attended two martini-tastings, which were a lot of fun and had good value. In sum, we were not consumers of most onboard activities (auctions, karoke, dancing contests, etc). We did three shore excursions. At Cozumel, we visited the Mayan ruins at Tulum. This required a 45-minute ferry ride to the mainland, followed by an hour busride (with a 30-minute stop at an art coop, not a bad stop). Once at the ruins, we had a very knowledgeable guide and plenty of time to explore the area on our own, perhaps 2 to 2.5 hours on site. So it was a fair amount of travel to and from, but worth it to see very well preserved ruins. We did not schedule an excursion at Grand Cayman, just walked around the shops, which are either jewelry or tourist schlock that all appears to come from the same jewelry and schlock warehouses. At Ocho Rios, my wife and I did the zipline adventure. We had done that in Alaska and found it great fun. In Jamaica, the ziplining itself in the jungle canopy was great, but the outing itself was poorly organized, with a LOT of waiting around. The company running the activity just wasn't able to deal efficiently with the large number of people participating: a long wait while everyone was put into their harnesses (two guys doing that), and at one point more than 40 of us were crowded onto a platform on a hillside for about 45 minutes. The activity itself is great fun, but I wouldn't do it again at Ocho Rios because of the poor execution. At Great Stirrup Cay, we went on the 1-hour Eco Boat tour, which I expected to be just OK, but we really enjoyed the scenery and the informative and entertaining comments by the guide, well worth it. The private island experience was a good one, with plenty of cookout-style buffet food and a clean beach environment. Overall, the trip was very good, comparable in value to our experiences on Princess, Celebrity, and Holland America. Of the four, my wife and I would give a small advantage to Princess on food and the appearance of the ship, but not a major issue. Many of the issues like noisy children in the steakhouse and poor organization of the zipline adventure were not NCL's fault, although they might want to re-examine some of their family seating and shore excursion selections. One thing my wife and I noticed is that it's hard to escape music. We ate breakfast every morning on the open aft deck, and we would have liked no music piped in back there until say 10:00 a.m. Not a deal-breaker. But the food was generally good to excellent, the cabin was spacious and well-tended, and the crew was pleasant and dealt with our various requests and issues along the way. We had a happy Christmas cruise with family and would travel with NCL again. The biggest problem was booking through cruises.com. They screwed up the pairings of us, and over nearly a year we fought them on billings. You cannot talk to the same person, so every phone call you had to start from scratch explaining the problem, and then they didnt fix it. I'd use NCL again, but I will never use an online booking agent again.

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Dec 20, 2011

Eastern Carribbean

HORRIBLE experience! Be advised this is a smaller ship, if you get sea sick-BEWARE! I was nauseous the entire time. I was not aware that the Atlantic ocean is very choppy. If you get sea sick, even a little bit, consider itinerary's that cruise the Gulf of Mexico and the Carribbean Sea. Avoid the Atlantic if possible. I have cruised before, with no problems whatsoever. LOVED Royal Carribbean. NCL is cheap-and now I know why.

Did NOT enjoy the Bahamas at all. Went there twice-on the way south on day 2, then again on the last day. Windy and large swells both days. Had to leave the island early. On the last day-we hit 50 foot swells! Freestyling is a nice option-you can pack less since you don't have to wear formal clothes, and the dress code is looser in the dining rooms. You can wear nice jeans, but not shorts and sandals. I hardly ate a thing the entire trip. Husband enjoyed the Seven Seas Dining Room. I do like the Freestyle option-no assigned seatings, you can go whenever you are hungry. Loose dress code applies-but not as scrict as other cruise lines. No shorts/sandals in the dining room. You can wear nice jeans. Oceanview, Deck 4. It was fine. I would have preferred a middle deck. We could hear the engine turn on from our room. Previous cruise I was on Deck 8. Much better. Not much available. Only 2 pools-1 for adults, 1 for kids. Only went in once. Hot tubs always crowded. Evening shows felt like High School Talent Shows. Very lame entertainment. Not much to do in the evenings. Bahamas-watch out for the Straw Market. The old one burned down, it has not yet been replaced. Very dirty, crowded, people hawking wares at you constantly. I didn't buy anything. Save your money for more southern islands. We purchased the snorkeling package-complete waste of money, we couldn't see a thing! It was actually dangerous-shortly after we went out-they called everyone in and evacuated us from the island early. They really should not have let us go out there. We were on the island for a total of less than 2 hours! St. Thomas Sky Ride-excellent experience for only $20 per person. Lovely views, we took awesome pictures. There is a bar at the top, most delicious pina colada ever-very expensive but delicous. Peurto Rico-El Yunque Rainforest-must visit! Loved it! Overall-this was the worst trip I have ever been on. Beware! It is cheap-but at what cost? Miserable week, couldn't wait to get off the ship. I wanted to fly home from one of the islands and abandon the rest of the week. Only 2 days of 8 were worthwhile- St. Thomas and Peurto Rico.

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Oct 16, 2011

Bahamas

It was the worst travel experience of my life. I hd never been on a cruise before and after hearing family members speak of their cruise experiences, I was eager to try it. The staff was rude, the food was horrible and day 3 of our 3 day cruise was cancelled due to weather. Totally gross. The Garden buffet was the same old stuff everyday. And it was all cold. The $25/person steakhouse was awful. The prime rib could not have been cooked

that day; my boyfriend and I ordered medium-rare and mine was well done (like chewing on a sneaker) and his was raw. The Italian restaurant ($10/person) was horrible; the salad was okay but the pasta and meatballs tasted like it was out of the frozen food dept. at WalMart. Nothing fresh except for the salad. It was clean and comfortable. The private balcony was nice. I could write my name in the dust on the upper shelves of the dresser....but other than that our steward, Vicente was terrific. He was the only person on the ship to make us feel welcome. Not much. I wanted some quiet time, and actually got to sit by the pool and soak up some sun. the rest of the time the decks were crowded with large families celebrating reunions. No place to enjoy a quiet drink and music. It's either blaring music or nothing. Never got to do anything. Weather cancelled our plans to go ashore. My last real vacation was to Paris in 2001. I thought I'd give this 3-day cruise a chance. I am a caregiver for an elderly lady and it took a lot of planning to get care for her for the four days I'd be gone. I was so excited to get away with my boyfriend. We dont get a chance to see each other alone. The boarding process was long and tedious....this cruise was like being stuck in an overcrowded hotel with horrible food and a totally indifferent staff. The departing process was totally stupid. I had a credit on my shipboard account of $7 and refused to wait in the hundreds long "credit desk" line to get it back. I told them to keep. Then, at the gangway, an NCL rep told me that I had to return to the ship, get my $7 and then get off the ship. We waited about 45 minutes while two clerks took care of the masses who had "credit desk" issues. And they were rude during that whole process. I was never more glad to leave anywhere in my life.

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Jun 5, 2011

Baltic

We wanted to visit the Baltic ports, especially St Petersburg, and we wanted to cruise in an informal environment. Overall, the cruise and the ship met our expectations. The ship was clean, service was very good, our stateroom - with balcony - was roomy, well-equipped and comfortable. Our room steward did all he could to please, even if his English was limited. The shore excursions that we took were expensive but, certainly in the case of St Petersburg,

well worth the money. We disliked the constant wailing heart-throb music in the buffet restaurant and the incessant marketing of NCL products and shipboard shops. We are not foodies. We ate only in the Garden Cafe buffet restaurant. We found the food tasty and sufficiently varied for our liking. We struggled to find a table away from the noisy, tinny music. If the weather was pleasant, as it was most of the time, we ate out on the rear deck. Alcoholic beverages included an 18% service charge and were painfully expensive. Bigger and more comfortable than we expected. The double bed was large and comfortable, very important for me as I suffer from a bad back. The room came with a safe, coffee maker, fridge, TV, adequate cupboards and drawers, couch-bed (not terribly comfortable) and desk. Wifi internet was available throughout the ship although the price was steep. Cost me $200 for two 250 minute packages. Bathroom was clean and adequate. Great shower, lots of hot water. The onboard activities were aimed at Mr and Mrs Average. We're in our sixties and pretty good at entertaining ourselves anyhow. We stuck our heads into a few of the rock and roll concerts and decided against staying the course. The amplified music throbbed through the cabins at the stern of the ship, although it was generally over by 10:30. The magician-illusionist was stunning; in our opinion, easily the best act. We avoided the dances, the quizzes, the mega-expensive gym and spa, the smoky casino and the pools/hot pools. Talks on various subjects inevitably came with heavy promotion of shipboard products. Take the excursions for St Petersburg. They're expensive but worth it. The alternative is to get caught up in a tangle of Russian bureaucracy in a country where you won't easily find help in English. The other city to consider taking an excursion to is Stockholm as the ship lowers anchor an hour away at the port of Nynashamn and you will need to take a train into the capital. Don't take the two-hour Highlights of Stockholm excursion that we took as you simply sit on a bus for two hours with no opportunity for a break. Mind you, the Swedes, unlike the Russians, will speak English to you. The other ports, Warnemunde, Helsinki and Tallinn, you may as well explore for yourself. It's easy enough. We had great weather, fascinating ports of call, a comfortable cabin, good service, satisfactory food, a smooth voyage and generally good organisation. The highlight was a 15 minute explanation from the captain on the bridge of how his ship worked - during a 2.5 hour $35 "behind the scenes" tour. I wish that we could have escaped the loud, trashy music in the buffet restaurant and the endless marketing promotions.

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Mar 13, 2011

Carribean

We were absolutely ROBBED by this cruise line!!!! My fiancee and I booked the cruise as a honeymoon package; it turned out to be a huge mistake. I've previously been on 4 other cruises (once on Carnival, twice on Royal Carribean and once on Norwegian, in that order) so I knew what to expect from the cruise line. I've always found Carnival to be a party cruise, Norwegian to be a "Silver" cruise (for the older folks) and Royal Carribean to be a

great balance. Reluctantly, we chose to book NCL for our honeymoon cruise, even though I felt like there was not much offered for a younger person during my last NCL trip. About a week before we set sail, I happened upon this review site, and was stunned at the bad reviews. I figured we'd give it our best shot though, since we'd already booked. BIG MISTAKE. These bad reviews are all DEAD ON; absolutely correct, and then some. When I went downstairs to file a formal complaint with them (read on to find out what all went wrong), I was told "I'm sorry sir, but every complaint you have made is out of my hands." Also, "I hope you enjoy the rest of your cruise." If you like eating the same buffet food everyday, this cruise is for you. The casual main dining room is closed until 5:30, so if you want a real meal (not buffet food) you have to DRESS UP to go the "Smart Casual" dining room. Freestyle Cruise, seriously? Only the buffet and "up-scale" dining rooms are open before 5:30. And once you get into the main dining room, you realize the portions are Kids Meal sized! Every meal featured the same, cold bread basket containing two peices of hard dinner rolls, 2 slices of rye bread, 2 slices of baguette and 2 wheat dinner rolls. Breakfast, Lunch and DInner, the SAME THING. No other choice. The Sports Bar was marginally good, on their best day. As for the premium (read you have to pay money to even get in!) restaurants: The French Bistro was $15 per person and unimpressive and the Hibachi restaurant was $25 per person. The Sushi restaurant was the only good dining spot on a boat of subpar cafeteria food. The food on Carnival and RC was 10 TIMES BETTER. The only Positive thing I have to say about this cruise is that our Room Steward, Arvin, was OUTSTANDING. He was the only person who made us feel welcome on the WHOLE BOAT. He kept the room immaculate and fulfilled every request we had. HIS SERVICE was the ONLY aspect of the whole cruise that surpassed Carnival and Royal Carribean. Jeopardy could've been better organized and conducted by a group of 2nd graders. The dance classes were a weak attempt at pacifying a crowd stuck at sea instead of in port. The best entertainment aboard that ship are the hired acts that put on the hypnotism, juggling and comedy shows. Followed closely by their employees talent show. Even though a lot of it was in "Engrish," it was obvious that many of them had amazing vocal talent, and some could sing and play an instrument. The $10 drinks and $2.25 soda cans wore out their welcome quickly. Also, everytime they "give something away," prepare to be baited into a 30 minute sales pitch about Amber or get cornered by someone wanting to sell you a reservation to their premium restaurant. Also, their FREE Bingo tickets require that you sit through multiple games of paid Bingo before you can participate! And the best liquor they had on board (which they FEATURED at a liquor tasting event the first day) wasn't available in ANY BAR on the cruise. The Xcaret excursion in Cozumel picks you up off the pier beside the ship and takes you to Cancun (not a problem, but not advertised as such) on to return you just in time to the boat. No time to see Cozumel from within a distance of 100 ft. DON'T book ANY excursions for Key West!!! You won't have enough time to do them! This is where Norwegian Cruise Line's CHEAP business model showed, and we were ROBBED of our vacation: One of the "Silver cruisers" went into cardiac arrest shortly after we left Cozumel and we immediately turned around to get them medical attention. That was completely understandable, except for the fact that due to the 3 hour delay, they CANCELLED the 10 hour Guatamala visit!!! They "gave" us a day at sea... I was willing to let that slide so that we could make the best of our honeymoon. Then, when we got to Key West, they made us go through Customs so we would get off their boat quicker on the last day. The cruise advertised a port time of 7a - 1p, but because they only had 2 customs officers checking EVERYONE'S info, we couldn't get off until 9:30a!!! And we were the 3rd floor to be called! Considering we had to catch a tram back to the bus no later than 12:15, we had only 3.5 hours of our advertised 6 HOURS in port!!

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By Erin_CR

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Mar 4, 2011

Carribbean

Just want to say, "We love the freestyle cruising"! From the beginning, I will agree with others that the embarkation process seemed a little disorganized. It took a VERY long time just to reach the porters to unload and then park our car. The check in went fine for us. We found our cabin without any delay, and our room steward was very helpful and pleasant. Our cabin was always clean and restocked with ice when we expected it. NCL does not provide

the "little freebies" like Carnival usually provides. For example, we didn't have robes to use in our room or the few sample-size goodies Carnival puts in the bathroom...razor, advil, lotion etc. We had a basic inside room on deck 8, and it was room-y with lots of closet space. Yes, we did notice a few stains on the bedding, but you could tell it had been laundered and was a food stain that just wouldn't come out. One problem: We were promised $100.00 on board credit when we booked our cruise (Cruise.com), but when we asked at guest services we were only given $75. Just a little advice- PRINT YOUR RECEIPTS and bring them with you. If we had done this I think they would have given us the full amount. We thought the food in the dining room was just as good as other cruise lines. We had breakfast, lunch, and dinner at a table for 2 every day ! That's something other cruise lines should start doing ASAP. It is so nice to not have to sit with eight other people, elbow to elbow for a 2 hour dinner. We did not do any of the specialty restaurants, although the Indian food lunch buffet was fantastic...$15.00 each, and totally yummy- if you like exotic food. We checked out the lido buffet several times too. Great for grabbing a soft pretzel stick or a crepe or some fruit. The desserts there are not so great, so stick with the crepes or the ice cream shop (free)! Can't forget to mention the late night CHOCOLATE buffet...gets crowded, but be patient it's really good. On the days at sea we played bingo once or twice, but BEWARE the crew really speeds through the bingo numbers and if you have a multi card package it's extremely hard to keep up. We won't play again because it seemed unfair. The rule is: if they've moved on to the next number before you catch the bingo you're out of luck. Also tried the Martini tasting, and it was worth the price for the buzz...Whew. We might be light-weights though, so don't expect to get hammered, but it was fun. This was our first December cruise, and the weather was chilly and windy, so No comments about the pool or any other water fun. You never really know what the weather will do, so if you are expecting a tropical vacation DON'T go in December or January. We tried to book the Glass Bottom Boat thing (twice) and both times it was cancelled because the water was so rough. We liked the Black beard's Castle and Rum Factory tour in St. Thomas. Do Not book snorkeling in December if the weather has been cold unless you have your own wetsuit! We heard the Beach excursions were great for those who just want to "sun" and not swim much, but use your judgement and CHECK WEATHER FIRST before you book anything. NCL will not refund excursions without 24 hour notice (even if you just booked something at the last minute).

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Jan 30, 2011

bahamas

The crew was disorganized. They were still working on repairs from dry-dock. Crew members -when asked for simple directions - said they were new to the boat and did not know. It had become a joke among the passengers about the food. They would say - "Well, shall we go eat at Wal-Mart?" The welcoming buffet was a far, far cry from RCL and Disney. I can't believe the passengers were welcomed with hot dogs and hamburgers... come on... The

entertainment was sub-par

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Jan 28, 2011

Carribean

Mayhem on the Sun Posted On: 28th Jan 2011 This ship was due for a service but NCL kept it in service. A day out the Carribaean and the propulsion system broke.They told us we were not going to the destination set.They took us to SAMRA in the Dominican, dead dogs and waste in the streets, unable to swim in the water due to human waste. The last visit was to NCL's own Island which at the time was a building site, so didnt hang around there either.

There was very vocal demonstrations on the ship througout the cruise. NCL offered 405 discount on next cruise which is ok if you live in the States and only paid a few hundred dollars for the same trip we paid thousands for. It would take years to save up again so they have offered nothing. Evidently this is a regular occurence with NCL ships, do yourself a favour. Also Cruise Club UK was next to useless in trying to settle the matter. You cannot plan as you dont know if the NCL ships will arrive at the destination. They say their terms and conditions state they can more or less take you anywhere they want.

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Jan 17, 2011

Port Canaveral to St Thomas

Don't go on the sun if you have a respect for cleanliness, want to eat wail at sea and not pay more for the food or think you should have access to heat in your room. That the staff should be respectful to you. We ate eggs and bacon with milk in the mornings and had a hard time with the selection in the main dinning room. The spicing was from India and the lobster looked like a kids bike tire the air had been left out of and about 4 inches long

under the shell. Expect others not to wait to be seated as you wait in the lines. Food gets a negative number. Small and filthy, no wood or mirrors as shown on NCL's page for the 5005 cabin. They were good at night but for an older crowd gray and no hair was the majority of the audience. We heard spa announcement all day a rub was north of $100 each day. Please ask why you want to go on the Sun. Find out where the head chief is from ahead of time. Curry in the morning potatoes was a hard one to get use to. The filthiness was commented by other we talked to as was the rudeness from staff time and again. Norwegian Cruise Lines Sun, January cruse to the Caribbean a filthy, cockroach infested, fake food, stains on the sheets, no heat, rude cruise, cruise. Want the time of your life then don’t step foot on the NCL Sun. When we arrived on deck 5 to our full window berth I could not believe they expected us to sleep between the stains on the white bed spread and mystery stains on the sheets and pillow cases. After informing the guest services of this several people appeared and we got clean bedding the next morning. We complained 3 times as did others on our deck, that there was no heat on our floor. I received several written responses that everything was ‘Normal’. We received a frayed and torn twin bed blanked for the two of us who would sleep in our clothing all but the last night. After turning a deaf ear to our heat problem on the 5th morning my wife smelt a burning smell in the bathroom enclosure. Wondering if I should call 911 for the suspected electrical fire I called guest services who sent some on in a grey jacket that examined the bath room and said yes there was something burning in the wall. He placed a call from our room phone and disappeared. I waited what seemed like forever with the door open others passing buy the room commenting they also smelt something burning Finally as a lay person thinking it might be a big deal, I returned to guest services where the person at the desk told me yes we have your new complaint that there is no heat in your cabin. So, other could hear me I told them the guy who left thought something in the wall was burning, that turned a few heads and a technician arrived who also agreed it smelt like an electrical problem in the wall. First he removed the wall filter by hand to show a filthy filter with what looked to be cotton on both sides. The walls of the heater were covered in lint and dust and apparently according to him it had caused the fan to stop spinning thus the burring smell from a very hot fan motor. I have included the photos for is tearing the wall out and the filter. I purchased allergy pills (for the snorkeling day to stay dry) on this ship the dust caused a reaction not only with me, but later in an elevator discussing the trip another passenger told me his allergies were real bad also. I told him to pull out his filter and if it was as filthy as mine to demand they change it. On the second day of the voyager my wife and I went up to the pool deck to get some sun. When she took off her shoe a cockroach wandered out. I captured it in a napkin and returned to guest services with it and quietly explained what had occurred. They sent the ‘pest team’ who went over the cabin with a small flash light and left. Later that evening after falling asleep the phone rang ( we had arrived on the red eye New Year’s evening to Florida from California and with the time changes and flight were tired) guest services wanted to let us know the bug team had determined “that the cockroach was not theirs” . I got up and since I went to bed in my clothing checked my shoes and went to the desk no one knew who placed that call. The next morning a knock at the door was Christopher in a white uniform who pleasantly enough explained what she had meant was that the bug crew had not found any more cockroaches in the cabin. Funny that night no one knew who called and after time to fix it they had an answer. I was to get another of the many “sorry” as the solution for the problem. He then asked if there was anything else he could do for us. I told him you are big on hand sanitizer but on arrival I had noticed a sticky looking substance on the glass elevator dripping from the roof so could you tell someone to clean it off? As I was to learn they are very good at pretending to listen or care but in one ear and out the other. On the next to the last day I took the hotel manager to the elevator and pointed out what had been there for at least 6 days. So, filthy air to breath and cockroaches in your personal possession’s a great start to a trip of a life time you have PAID FOR WELL IN ADVANCE. What about what goes inside of you their food? Let’s start with the oblivious I also have photos of the long black hair in our morning fruit bowl from room service. How long does it take to pull them out of if they were looking? My wife is blond and I have short brown hair the room guys had short black hair it was quite long and obvious on the green melon chunks. But what goes to the intent of their business model of NCL is that they label the juice dispenser “orange juice” but what they pour into the fountain clearly states orange drink cocktail on the containers. When questioned the dinning staff stated (as Royal Caribbean juices them in front of you) is you can get orange juice for additional cost. Why not say what it is orange drink. Please if your poring fake orange juice call it what it is so we can choose. As it sits at the table it separates into water on top and the food coloring to the bottom. Something seemed wrong with the coffee they brew and again things are not what it seems as the large stainless steel coffee makers are giant instant coffee dispensers. Again we found out that for an additional charge you could have normal coffee where water passes over the grinds. The buffet always seemed like someone should take a rag and clean it up (photos). Having the buffets in the back of the ship closed caused a jam up at meal times. The first meal I tried on arrival was a mock hamburger. I called it mock as I work for a school and see trays of pre marked hamburgers steamed for the kids, guess what NCL served them the same way trays from the oven sitting in water. As I was adding the condiments the curtain actually hit my hand and I was told by a young man that I would need to go get into another line as he was closing this station. A man in the chief hat watch this so I walked over and explained I was on vacation and did not take orders from the help. I left the plate and went to the fan tail where I was approached by a guy in a white uniform who asked if he could do anything I said “yes, get away from me”. We went exploring around noon on another day and found the included Spanish dining area on the Sun. Here are olives, some cheese and a few lunch meats including Baloney and salami with no pepper corns, who goes on a once in a life time Caribbean cruise hoping for a baloney sandwich on white bread. Dinners were lacking in the prepaid venues and the staff was once again rude. We tried to make reservations for two and were told just come on down “two is no problem”. So, that evening after determining many in front of us were in large parties I approached the desk and told her two. She told me “go get back in line”. We went out the dining hall and around to the bar where I watch other pairs loiter by the entrance where it would become clear later she was calling out “2” from time to time from her podium. Not knowing if the couples were joining others I needed to wait to be seated to see them finishing before we got our water. Guess the solution NCL staff offered after walking away from the table to tell the head waiter of this, “sorry”. The meals themselfs were time and again a disgrace. On the last night I received the roast beef lunch meat I had avoided with gravy along with one table spoon of canned peas with two baby carrots as the roast beef dinner. If you read roasted potatoes would you expect more than four slices from a single potato? Yes, you can request all the plates or dinners you want. The shrimp cocktail had a very strong taste as if they were old. One night I received 3 thin slices of a steak only Jesus could feed more on a steak than NCL. A note on this cruise the head chief was Indian and it had an influence on the spicing of every thing from fried potatoes, rice with chunks of fish blended in, to the cold cherry soup that was quite good. Let’s go explore the islands with NCL partners, the excursions desk set me up with a power snorkel adventure, where a machine would pull you through the ocean included was an open bar with snacks it was listed as 4 ½ hours on the card provided by NCL staff. The photo of the machines at NCL’s website look like machines from James Bond in fact the fans were 10 inches thick with the battery in the handle. Once away I asked for a beer where I was told no beer, wine or spirits but on the way back we could have some rum punch. Off we went to “Turtle Island” for the day among the turtles of course. As we approached an Island the skipper told us how much more fun it would be to dive at a ship wreck. We parked between 10 to 12 other boats with 40 to 60 people each and several scuba diver ships and were informed it was better here than where we had paid to go ( it was also closer to the ship). You could have booked the ship wreck tour for ½ of what we paid for Turtle Island snorkel adventure. When I asked for a snack I was told to have a warm coke as no ice was on board the Jolly Mon. After a written complaints about the power snorkels not having been charged as they quit 10 minutes into the adventure ( I swam back holding one in each arm as my wife is a novice swimmer) no beer or open bar, no snacks, and the crew who must have thought we did not want the last hour on the catamaran and returned 60 minutes early, NCL refunded 50% to those who had signed on to the original letter. I was to find out later the others who had also had dead power snorkels paid the full price to NCL even though they knew the facts about the group’s problems. After the electrical fire I went to the guest services desk where I informed them I had had enough and wanted to speak with someone with ”stars or bars” on their shoulders. We met with the hotel manager who I was to believe genuinely was as shocked as we were (or had he done this a thousand times before).The air conditioning person told us this ship has to heat water and send it through the heating pipes but was not fired up, oil cost money that we had given them our money a long time ago. The Sun’s hotel manager asked for some time to review the matter and we found $300 ships credit for a ruined trip on the last full day. That took care of the mandatory tipping and the $19.95 photos and a souvenir from the gift shop. Not a refund to our charge card mind you but a credit for ship board retail. Waiting to meet with him we were able to hear a constant stream of cruisers wondering about this charge or that. A few of the favorite were the man who liking his bartender had given him a tip to only find out that all transactions at the bar had a 15% gratuity charged to them, so a tip on the tip he had given. Another woman wondered about the two 6 dollar charges on her bill. She was informed she had grabbed two small waters on the way to an island, the kind that are 6 for a $1 in a store. NCL has a strict policy of no water or soda being brought on board the charge for a soda card was $60 per person. At the pier locals sell cold water for a dollar a bottle; I wonder if NCL knew this. In conclusion, if you are still reading the Carnival Dream which we shadowed the trip had 24 hour free Sushi bar with more than California rolls, Pizza and pasta bars, BBQ on the decks and more included in the meals, which the people on St Thomas informed us were very good as we talked at a pulled pork stand eating our first good meal in days. Just to think, at Trip Advisor we had read of a sewage smell from a poster on the Dream and changes to NCL from that fact alone. Yes, they said it was true from time to time there was that smell. On the Sun we went to the 4th floor by accident after a show and it smelled bad, asking someone in the hall about the smell they said it was that way each day. The man also told me there was a banging sound in his wall. Seems the crew had put the gang plank away wrong and something big and metal was striking his cabin wall with each wave. Guest services had told him nothing could be done until we unloaded in 2 more days. All goes to the business model for NCL, where you certainly do not get what you paid for from fake juice and stained sheets in a room with roaches, to shore excursion that are not what was represented in writing. I have included photos of much of what I have written. Do yourself a favor and explore your options in cruising, sometimes you get far less than what you are paying for and they pocket your money as profits. When you intentional don’t get what you paid for and speak to the 2nd in command all that is left is to warn others in words with large format photos. So, don’t do it, there are other cruise lines that you can sail on, our trip was ruined day after day by NCL’s, sanitation, food and several rude people. Finally there is always something good to say about anything and talking to others regarding our interactions with the Sun and staff we were able to make some new friends who also were discussed by the treatment to passengers. In the 7 days 3 sets of passengers would travel on her again the overwhelming majority were sick they had book on the NCL Sun and would not do it again.

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By Lana_CR

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Jan 5, 2011

Eastern Carribean

I had high expectations but was quickly brought to reality! I have previously been on a Carnival cruise and thought that Norwegian was supposed to be a step up, but I was terribly wrong. Carnival was a much better deal with better service and entertainment. I will never cruise with Norwegian again! The service in the dining rooms was horrible. We were served drinks on several occasions in glasses that were cracked or broken and the juice

was seeping out the sides onto the table cloth. They would serve one of us our plate and then the others wouldn't get their plates for 15 minutes or so later. Your only choice was to go ahead and eat or let your food get cold and eat when the others got their food. If you dare asked what flavors of yogurt they had they would tell you they don't know and then just look at you like you were rude for asking. The food was ok once you got it ,but getting it was the problem. Oh so many negative experiences I just don't have room to write. Our balcony room wasn't bad but the beds were horrible. My son was going to sleep on the "pull out couch" but we quickly realized that it wasn't a pull out at all. They just removed the pillows from the top and threw sheets over it and called that a bed. It was smaller than a twin size bed so if you are over the age of 12 it probably will be too small. The other bed for my husband and myself was two twin size beds pushed together with a pad in between to make it a larger bed. If you don't have small children and were hoping for some peace and quite...don't go on this cruise! There were small children jumping into the hot tubs and pools the entire trip. There is no area on the ship for adults only and they don't care that the kids are running out of control! I feel that I could have had a much better vacation for the amount of money I spent on this cruise. I will never take another cruise with Norwegian again!

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By Tom_CR

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Dec 18, 2010

Eastern Caribbean

This was without a doubt the worst cruise I have ever been on. The ship blew an engine shortly after leaving our first destination and we were only able to go half speed. With only one engine functioning the prudent thing to do would have been return to Port and refund the passengers their money. However Norwegian and Capt Borg decided to continue but changed the intinerary from US Virgin Islands to Dominican Republic and a private cay that can

best be described as Gilligan's Island without the humor or Ginger and Marianne. Even the normal function of the ship was bad. The buffet food was inedible and the staff varied from disinterested to rude. Communication was difficult due to a staff that seemed to be 80% non-conversant in English even though the home port was Florida. Never again will I travel on this company's ships. Mostly the food was OK if you went to the main dining facility or paid extra at the specialty cafes. The buffet was worse than cafeteria food. Functional and relatively clean. Mostly revolved around trying to sell their over priced jewelry. Couldn't tell you there were no excursions available after the change in itinerary. It sucked.

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By GLL_CR

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Dec 11, 2010

Eastern Caribbean

DO NOT BOOK THIS CRUISE LINE. The absolute most horrible cruise line and  worst travel experience ever.We waited over 2 hours in the port offices before they ever got really started on processing at Port Canaveral, Florida.This should have been a clue to begin with.The ship on the very first day was vibrating really bad and was very loud.We left port on Saturday afternoon and we stopped at Nassau in the Bahamas Sunday.On Monday morning fairly early

from our cabin on the 10th floor, we could hear that something major had occurred with the engine.The Captain then announced that we had only 1 engine working and we would proceed to change  our cruise from the Ports of St Thomas and St Martin to  Samoa in the Dominican Republic (looks pretty close to Haiti to me) and their private islandThe captain was sorry but corporate sure everyone would understand and we would all get a $100 credit for our inconvenience.Basically if came for any enjoyment that a major port offers it was not going to happen.They basically wanted the downtime to repair the engine.NCL put 3000 customers at risk because they did not want tpo return our money.They knew this ship had a problemOn Wednesday, they had as close to a riot on the 5th floor as possible without a major mishap. People were shovingand pushing and yelling.On Saturday on our return at about 2:00 AM they ran into a major storm that put everyone on board in jeopardy with the engine problems this ship has had the past week.Never- Ever consider there line. Greed is not worth the risk they put every passenger in this week The food is OK but not great unless you go to a specialty resturant Basically Ok. We upgraded to a balcony but in the mornings the steward would keep opening the door when they wanted you out of the room. Not as many as other lines None

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Oct 28, 2010

western caribean

The cruise left it's initial port 21/2 hours late. No one helped you find your stateroom. Disorganization permeated the entire trip. Getting through customs was a joke..apparently they are feuding with U.S. Customs. The food was really not very good. Bingo was very expensive and there is nothing "free" about free style cruising. It should be called FEE STYLE cruising. We were very disappointed. The food was not very good. The only acceptable

meal was in the French restaurant, which include a $30 cover charge per person. They even messed up breakfast. Very clean and spacious with loads of storage.

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By Jim_CR

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Oct 23, 2010

western caribean

Overall this was the worst vacation I have ever taken. We went with 3 families. 12 children between the ages of 4 and 12. The service was terrible except for a handful of people. There was lude and rude behavior, people exposing themselves , people pulling others pants down and all in public and in front of children. We were told that the family pool was now the adult pool and vice versa. The family pool now was 7 feet deep and the kids were not allowed

in the now adult pool that is 3.5 feet deep at the low end. The kiddie pool was constantly full with adults and we were told they have a right to it also.There were grown men walking around the ship in leather thongs, ladies underwear and see through clothing with no under garments. We complained only to fall on deaf ears. We spoke with even the captain and he said and I quote " deal with it". We only got results on Thursday which was day 5 when we just happened to catch the behavior on video. They gave us a round of drinks @ dinner. I would not go on NCL again if it were free. They are the most unprofessional organization I have ever dealt with. I guess FREESTYLE CRUISING means do whatever you want no matter what. I wouldn't even give them 0 stars. so-so, always ran out. Housekeeping was great, the highlight of the cruise. Kids corner staff was great and thats about it. Depends, Amitique Bay was great, the others you can get much cheaper on shore. Glad to be home. I have 9 and 7 year daughters and a 4 year old son. When we went ashore they didnt want to go back to the ship.

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Aug 15, 2010

Baltic Capitals

The 12 day Baltic Capital cruise left from Dover, the connection from Heathrow to Dover was hassle free. Once on board I quickly discovered much of the staff lacked communication skills much less a sense of humor about their job. Despite the apparent seriousness of the staff they did not enforce rules regarding children in the hot tubs. The pool deck was constantly crawling with kids, which would have been fine but for the lack of space in the

jacuzzi's (and the occasional kick to the ribs by a child once in). The cruise was a floating infomercial with several announcements made daily in four languages informing you about the next bingo session, sale at the duty free shop or specials on upcoming cruises. The food was ample and the menu was diverse but it was mostly so-so and I was rarely raving about any meal aboard. The room was a partially obstructed view stateroom. Unfortunately the description does not capture the fact that the view is obstructed by the jogging track and that at all hours during people are walking by your window. The windows are tinted so people cannot easily see in but I did not like leaving the curtains open and seeing our cruisemates walking by during the day. At night lights were left on around the track so the curtains were shut then too. It may as well have been an inside stateroom with a curtain. Otherwise the room was very nice and cleaned twice a day. The activities on board were limited to family events, bland shows or drinking events (at our expense of course) and we tired of them quickly. The shore destinations made the trip. Copenhagen, Helsinki and Tallinn were the smoothest cities to visit with a nearby port and easy access to the sights. Stockholm and Berlin required an hour and a half and a three hour train ride respectively away. That left us with not a lot of time in each, and more time would have been nice. St. Petersburg required either a visa or a shore excursion. We opted for a visa which required some planning before the cruise and once in St. Petersburg, the port was a 15 minute walk from the nearest transportation. In Russia don't expect the locals to speak English or for there to be a working ATM. Other than that each stop was full of incredible sights and tastes. We did not take any of the NCL shore excursions and the adventure was worth it. The complaint about that is that at a few ports, NCL excursion takers were given preference for early disembarkation which was frustrating in Sweden where shore access was by tender.

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Apr 29, 2010

Valparaiso to Buenos Aires

The cruise is not bad. They dont answer to complaints so if you have some tell everybody by submiting a review. Fair entartaiment, acceptable food, good service but if you are enabled dont take the shore excursions The food is good but not to be excited waiting for the dinner. The buffet is very crowded and unpleaseant and the breakfeast at the restaurant is poor No complaints about the staeroom. The cleaning service was excellent Good entartaiment

but for a 14 night cruise to much of the same IF YOU ARE DISABLED DON'T USE THE SHORE EXCURSION SERVICES OF NCL We are a couple 70 and 68 years old with serious foot problems. We took the cruise to South America and booked all, by one, shore excursions with the cruise company. One of the excursions was a horrible experience and all because the indifference of the ship crew to our problem. At February 21 2010 the ship arrived to Ushuaia. The trip we took was “Siera del Fuegoâ The trip has two parts: A bus trip to the park then transfer to a catamaran to see the wild life of the Beagle channel. A day before, we explained to the lady in charge at the shore excursions desk, that we are disabled and the trip has to be as easy as possible for us so we will have to walk as little as possible. We could begin the trip with the catamaran and end it by bus or the opposite. The transfer from the catamaran to the bus is shorter and without steps than the transfer from the bus to catamaran. More than that , the catamaran was docked 30m from the ship. According to those details known by the shore excursion team we should begin the trip with the catamaran. We arrived to the meeting point on the ship and asked for a wheelchair to take my wife to the shore. After three calls to the front desk and waiting of 15 minutes the wheelchair arrived. The shore excursion team did nothing to avoid the delay of our disembarking. They didn't make the catamaran to wait for us and when we got off the ship the catamaran began to move. We begun the trip with the bus. The excursion guide didn't allow us to get from the bus to the catamaran via the short path so we had to go around climbing steps up and down. The catamaran docked one km from the ship and two disabled people had to walk this long distance without any help. Coming back to the ship we placed a written complain. We were promised that the shore excursion director will speak with us during the cruise. It did not happen. After the cruise ended we were asked by NCL to fill a survey file which we did. We described again our experience and no answer. Before posting the review we send it by fax to NCL and still no answer. Not only the team did nothing to help us the NCL authorities didn't find the time to react to the event. We decided to share our experience with other potential disabled clients of the shore excursion services at NCL . If you are enabled dont take the NCL shore excursions. If you have a complaint dont address it to NCL they will never answer. The boarding at Valparaiso Chile a very easy experience. In less than an hour we were in the stateroom. The ship is clean the service is good and the food is acceptable. The main buffet restaurant is crowded and unpleasent, the entarteiment is sometimes boring, the stateroom is nice and very clean, the ship is old but in good condition. As we like shore excursions we will never take the NCL cruises (may be for crossing the Atlantic)

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By Rick_CR

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Feb 23, 2010

South America

Embarkation: The Port of Buenos Aires can be chaotic and disorganized during peak boarding times: all taxis and large tour buses enter through one gate and then jockey for position in a huge traffic snarl in order to let passengers out curbside. Additional confusion results from a single sidewalk (with very little signage) that requires passengers to proceed to a luggage intake station through a doorway on the right, then double-back to the actual

terminal entrance door on the left. During our embarkation there was very little guidance from NCL staff, who were present on the scene but not active as some had signs in their hands that they held close to their sides instead of up in the air, while others just stood and stared blankly at the pandemonium without the slightest attempt to guide anyone. Once inside the terminal, a long line lead us to passport control, and passengers who refused to queue in single file (cutting the line to visit with relatives and jockey to get a little further ahead) further compounded the chaos. Processing was even halted at one point so that the overwhelmed agents could take a break, but this resulted in even longer lines to leave the port. Once through passport control, diesel buses carried passengers to the ship, weaving under cranes and through stacks of cargo containers. Reaching the gangway at last, we entered the ship on Deck 5 and faced a very long line in the Four Seasons dining room, where room cards were being issued. As suite guests, my spouse and I were pulled from this queue and separately checked in by staff in the lobby area of the Il Adagio restaurant. After taking photos, we were led to an adjoining room for a one-on-one talk with ship concierge Karin, who asked if there was anything she could arrange for us as we settled in. The one request I had was to reserve a spot in the thermal suite in the spa was for naught¦despite web postings to the contrary, there is no thermal suite on board. As Karin explained, this is an older ship, and it does not have the amenities you might expect on newer, larger ships. Indeed. Ship: The Norwegian Sun, built in 2001, is a smaller vessel that feels somewhat dated and out-of-touch even though it is relatively new (perhaps this explains a planned dry-dock scheduled for fall 2010.) Public areas are small and a bit on the claustrophobic side, and the awkward deck layout, which is configured around a giant central kitchen area on deck 5, prevents easy walking from venues located at opposite ends of the ship. The atrium features four Panoramic Elevators€ that, after leaving decks 5, 6 and 7, travel the remainder of their journey inside a white tube hardly panoramic at all. There are many rust spots all over the exterior decks of the vessel that are in need of painting, and plastic flowers and Papier Mache rocks abound – no fresh flowers were to be seen. The daily newsletter is laughable – frequent misspellings, incorrect information, and page after page devoted to getting you to spend money on jewels, artwork, massages and excursions. I know these elements are part of the cruise line revenue stream, but honestly, NCL goes above and beyond any acceptable levels of advertising when 6 front-and-back insert pages are spent trying to pry your money from your pocket. Separately, the passenger composition on this South American itinerary was largely comprised of travelers from France, Germany and Latin America, and as a result, I observed willful disregard for the rule against smoking in individual cabins and public areas despite admonishments from the crew. Indeed, when walking down the halls of decks 9 and 10, the cigarette smoke coming from cabins was so thick that it would make me cough out loud. I saw several cases of plumbing problems for example, on embarkation day inside cabins 0129 and 0329 were flooded so badly with sewage that carpets were pulled up, odorizer was sprinkled on floors and giant fans were in place for at least 2 straight days. Serious customer service issues exist on this ship. Bartenders and bar staff are competent and friendly (especially Marvin in the Observation Lounge), but much of the food service team seems to be preoccupied with socializing with each other when interrupted from this pastime they are often surly and occasionally downright rude. When we got up to take a look at a breakfast fruit buffet in the Four Seasons main dining room, one server admonished us to sit down immediately and barked, Let us do our job and you do yours! During the mandatory lifeboat muster, our station leader - an on board entertainer named Alan - practiced his dance steps while the drill took place. At the same time his station partner informed us, "Remember you are at Muster Station R. You know what Station R stands for? R is for rich. Like you. (Presumably because this station is a meeting point for suite guests.) On a positive note about the crew, Concierge Karin is a very hard worker who aims to please. Ive read complaints online that she is never at her desk, but in reality this is because she is constantly in motion, running all over the ship to take care of guests. She is extremely accommodating and courteous, and the majority of this crew would do well to model their behavior after hers. Cabin: We were booked in Cabin 0265, a Penthouse Suite located aft on the Norway Deck. This cabin is spacious (the photos of the living room area on the NCL website really do not do the size of it justice) and generally well maintained. The bathroom is large, with a separate glassed-in toilet closet (like many cruise ship WCs, this one has a slight smell of sewage), a double-door-enclosed shower, and a Jacuzzi tub that is large enough for a 6-foot tall adult to lie down in. The bathroom has only one sink, however, so washing up and shaving are a one-person-at-a-time affair. Lighting is good in the bathroom, but one minor annoyance: you cannot turn on just one light, say only over the sink - you must turn on all 12 recessed spotlights or none at all (kind of disruptive if you have to get up in the middle of the night). In addition, it sometimes took as long as 15 minutes to get hot water in the bathroom, so if you are in a hurry, plan on a cold shower. Closet space in this cabin is not as generous as one would expect, especially for a 2-week itinerary. There are lots of drawers, though, and a separate make-up table area in the pass-through closet space between the bathroom and bedroom. The bedroom is nicely-sized, with a very soft marshmallow mattress and a separate set of glass doors that open onto the best thing about this cabin - the generous wrap-around aft balcony, which features room enough for two chaise lounges as well as a table and three regular-size chairs. Watching the world go by on calm sea days makes the investment in this suite worthwhile. Negatives about Suite 0265: no coffee maker or kettle (let alone the cappuccino machine advertised in most NCL literature describing Penthouse Suite amenities), no in-room Wi-Fi, no extra blankets or pillows without making a special request, and large tube-style Panasonic televisions that are well past their prime, to the point of being nearly unwatchable. A Sony DVD player with surround-sound is outfitted in the living room, but I can't imagine blasting the speakers while watching a movie from the on board library. A connecting door to the smaller balcony room next door would make this an ideal suite for sharing with kids or another couple, but in our case our neighbor used it for eavesdropping (as he made clear while we were out on the balcony, when he leaned over the dividing barrier and asked about things that had been discussed in private). Beware: noise (and the odd piece of toast flying off a plate) is also sometimes an issue from the Great Outdoors Cafe located on the deck above - diners frequently drag their chairs (and tables) as they jockey for position alongside the rails. One saving grace during our cruise was that the cafe space above this cabin is unusable in cold or inclement weather, so the noise factor wasn't as bad as it could have been. The Penthouse Suite comes with Butler Service - ours was a rather shy man named Orlando. In addition to bringing ice (and unpacking your clothes if you ask), the butler brings complimentary canapes in the late afternoon and also delivers room service orders (room service in this suite is a complicated affair in which you call the room service number, they hang up, locate your butler, and he calls you back to take the order and subsequently deliver it). I had but one request of Orlando - to supply a bottle of whiskey for evening drinks. I told him I understood that I would have to pay extra for the alcohol, but he gave me a funny look and informed me that I would have to pay for each shot in the bottle individually! When I asked how that could be possible, given that guests can purchase a dozen bottles of wine from NCL without a "per-sip" surcharge. He just shrugged his shoulders and later I received an explanation from the Concierge: It is supposedly a (newly-introduced) fleet wide NCL policy that guests cannot purchase a bottle of liquor on board, even if they are willing to pay an exorbitant amount for it - apparently because some guests cannot be trusted not to drink it all at once (how this gets around being able to drink a whole bottle of wine at once is beyond me). In any event, it is nonsensical that a suite guest cannot request a bar setup with a single bottle of liquor for the duration of a two-week cruise. Our Cabin Steward Fidel was perhaps the best we have ever had on any cruise – he visited several times a day and our suite was kept immaculate at all times. Food: Overall, the food served on the NCL Sun is consistently mediocre poorly prepared, sloppily presented and more often than not, reheated from a frozen state. Interestingly, during a casual conversation with the Food & Beverage manager, he revealed that (despite an itinerary with close proximity to some of the best meat and seafood on the planet) none of the protein served on the Sun is fresh. That's right - all steaks, poultry and seafood items are shipped frozen to the ship from Miami because of potential labor strikes from dockworkers and other food providers in South American ports. It's unsurprising then that the resulting meals are less than spectacular. One thing to remember when dining on this ship the service staff has been indoctrinated with a set order in which to deliver food, and any deviations or special requests (like a pre-dinner cocktail or an extra piece of bread with your meal) cause confusion and turmoil. Service staff is also not very competent, often mixing up orders and dropping food and utensils - the crashing of plates, silverware and glassware onto the floor is a constant in nearly every dining venue on the Sun. The Freestyle concept really is kind of a joke if you don't plan ahead, you really cannot eat whenever, wherever walk-up to the desk of a specialty restaurant without a reservation and you will get a blank stare and a No! Here then, is a rundown of each of the restaurants on board: Concierge Lounge: Our first dining experience on the Sun was lunch in the Concierge Lounge, set up in the Il Adagio specialty restaurant. Warning signs that a bad meal was forthcoming appeared right away: our waiter was shuffling his feet and singing to himself, even while taking our order, and the tablecloth was stained with food from a breakfast that had been served earlier that morning. I asked for a Diet Coke and 20 minutes later received a Beck's Beer in a bottle. I asked again for a Diet Coke, and this time received a Pepsi in a can. After my third request for a Diet Coke, our server informed me that they only have Pepsi on NCL (first time anyone ever told me), so I said “Okay, let me have a Diet Pepsi then 42 minutes and $2.24 later, I received the one and only soda that I had on board. My lunch consisted of a Caesar Salad that would be best described as a few leaves of Romaine lettuce floating in two cups of salad dressing, followed by cold and inedible hamburger "sliders" and French fries that were still partially frozen. I skipped it. Breakfast is offered in this venue as an amenity for suite guests, and the service was admittedly better than this first meal, but you have to know how to order. If you want a regular amount of cheese on your omelet, specify “extra cheese,otherwise the omelet arrives dry. If you want your English muffin toasted, you must specifically ask for it to be done. Teppanyaki: During the check-in process, Concierge Karin encouraged us to make a reservation for the Teppanyaki specialty restaurant, because "once everyone on the ship hears about how good it is, you won't be able to get a reservation." We took her advice and made a booking for our first night on ship. After our party of four was seated at the 12-person grill, we placed an order for cocktails. A couple of the requests (a gin martini, a blended margarita) seemed to vex the waiter - a hunch that was proven true when the drinks did not appear until 52 minutes later. After being served soybeans, soup and a salad, our two teppanyaki chefs appeared - making nervous jokes and fumbling a bit as they started juggling knives and spatulas over the steaming hot grill. I had just remarked to my brother-in-law that "This can only end badly..." when one of the chefs lost his grip on a twirling spatula and it sailed across the grill and hit my spouse square in the chest, covering him in food and sauce. After he excused himself from the table amid gasps from our fellow diners, the chefs proceeded to juggle raw eggs, which they also dropped with splats onto the floor. Everyone at the grill grew visibly agitated at becoming the next victim, and I said, "Maybe we should stop the juggling and proceed with the cooking." No one laughed. Neither did I when my spouse returned and the maître d' failed to compensate him for the $25 meal surcharge - instead she offered a complimentary t-shirt cleaning (even though he was wearing a dress shirt and dress slacks). The evening was ruined, as you can imagine, but admittedly the food was fairly tasty (if diners can manage to avoid wearing it). Four Seasons: Our group of four encountered mediocre food and very surly service in this main dining room (in fact we had a running debate over whether the service is worse in the Four Seasons or the Seven Seas - food is from the same kitchen, and only the serving staff distinguishes the two main dining room venues). Bland dishes like chicken breast with instant mashed potatoes and frozen vegetables abound. On the accident front, I had a shrimp cocktail spilled all over the table in front of me one evening by a sloppy server. Il Adagio: Dinner is reasonably good at this venue, which specializes in Italian dishes. Order the simple things, like an artichoke pizza, which is crisp and delicious. Service is sloppy, however: it took more than 15 minutes for a server to appear on one busy evening, and an additional 30 minutes to get glasses of water to the table. The reason, according to our server: We have to go and find more water. Le Bistro: Food and service were a bit above average in this venue. The cassoulet was decently prepared, with slightly overcooked but flavorful duck. The chocolate fondue was cold, runny and inedible, and although the menu advertises Crepes Suzette prepared table-side, they are not, obviously for safety reasons (but then why offer it in writing?). If you order selections from the International Cheese Trolley for dessert, you'll receive a few slices of American, Swiss and Bleu served along with a plastic-covered packet of saltine crackers. Beware the extra charges for certain menu items that are in addition to the restaurants $20 cover charge. East Meets West Steakhouse: Food quality is slightly above average here, with fairly attentive service (although we were turned away in our first attempt to dine whenever at 7:30 pm despite the fact that only two of the more than 35 tables were occupied). Jumbo shrimp cocktails with a spicy sauce are a pleasure, and the wedge salad is a classic that was enjoyable. Not so great: gummy lobster bisque and defrosted steaks that were tough and overcooked despite a request for medium rare. On another evening, to avoid the frozen steak, I ordered rotisserie chicken, which was dry and tough. Again, beware of the extra charges beyond the $25 cover “ it's $10 more if you want that frozen lobster tail with your frozen Filet Mignon. Sushi Bar: If you like sushi this is actually one of the better dining venues aboard the Sun. Although the fish isn't fresh, the hand rolls are well prepared and suitably spicy. Service staff are attentive and pleasant, a rarity on this ship. Pacific Heights: Perhaps the worst of the specialty restaurants. After a conversation with the Food & Beverage Manager, I was under the assumption that this venue had been closed but what he really meant to tell me was that its partnership with the food magazine Cooking Light has been terminated. And with good reason: the Tomato Soup is like a can of Campbells with a spoonful of Cayenne Pepper thrown in, and the Mushroom Quesadilla, seemingly filled with instant guacamole and slimy canned mushrooms, is perhaps the vilest thing I have ever attempted to eat. After ordering drinks, our server told us that the 40-minute delay in their delivery was because “The bartender is in the bathroom. When he finally returned to our table 20 minutes later with appetizers, the waiter looked at us and scornfully said, "You switched places on me!" We had not. Buffet: Typical mediocre cruise-line buffet fare - nothing is great, nothing is horrid. Some tips: you don't have to form a single queue go to the station that you want (there will be howls of protest, but the reality is, this was set up for diners to pick-and-choose from salads, entrees and desserts rather than follow one singular line). During peak lunch times, head out to the rear Great Outdoors area, which has a separate buffet queue featuring salads, burgers, and desserts. As part of the buffet breakfast in the Garden Cafe, waffles are cooked to order in the Pacific Heights venue, and there is virtually no waiting probably because it is not advertised and you have to exit out of the buffet, head towards the Sports Bar and make a right to get there. You can also find freshly baked pizza (that is quite good) at Pacific Heights during the lunchtime buffet service. Entertainment: Live shows: The "Gaucho de la Plata" performance was awkward and uncomfortable - the male "Gaucho" performer became winded after his first bolo dance, then proceeded to make several homophobic jokes in a row. Separately, the "Jean Ann Ryan Dancers" are actually fairly talented...unfortunately the material they are tasked with performing (especially choreography during the Broadway-themed "Encore!" show) is clunky and uninspired. Their "Cirque du Pan" show, a faux "Cirque du Soliel" retelling of "Peter Pan" is the best performance of the lot fun costumes, cute sets and some impressive gymnastics and aerial acrobatics. Bingo: The offering of every big cash prize came with an asterix: "$5000 Jackpot! *If you cover your card in 46 numbers or less." Isn't this a very low statistical possibility? Not even one guaranteed cash Bingo jackpot during a two-week cruise? Casino: Slot machines are like vacuum cleaners - 20 dollars on a 25-cent machine disappears in a flash. Tables were often empty, with dealers staring blankly and singing to themselves. The casino is closed while in Chilean waters (a significant portion of this itinerary), and it seemed to be primarily used as a indoor smoking lounge during inclement weather - the smoke is extremely heavy, with little or no ventilation. Shop: Despite a sign that excitedly proclaims "We have everything you need! Toothpaste, Mouthwash, Toothbrushes!" - the first two on that list were not stocked during the entire 14-day cruise. When asked, a shop assistant shrugged and said, "We don't carry toothpaste." Separately, several days before the end of the cruise, the store manager encouraged me to take advantage of the "Buy 2, Get 1 Free" port-themed t-shirt offer, because "They will not be available for remainder of the cruise." The shirts were observed on offer long after - in fact, all the way to the shop closing on the final night. Spa: I am an avid spa-goer, but having experienced the customer service levels throughout the rest of the ship, I opted not to partake of any spa treatments offered by the Mandara Spa. I do have one anecdote regarding the staff, however. My spouse approached the spa reception desk and inquired about getting a mustache trim in the salon (a service advertised on the salon menu). The receptionist told him "No, we don't do that." He walked away in frustration. A few moments later, I approached the desk and asked if it were possible to get my mustache trimmed. "Sure," the receptionist said, "when would you like to schedule an appointment?" Enrichment Lectures: Presented by Assistant Cruise Director “Szolt the Bolt,” these featured sixth-grade level Power Point presentations on such topics and the indigenous peoples and the geology/geography of South America. He was unprepared to give the scheduled talk on whales and wildlife, so he showed a video about Alaskan whales instead. Excursions: Here are details on excursions offered by NCL: The Lagoon Bluff: Based on rave reviews, our party of four reserved this Falkland Island penguin rookery excursion via the NCL website more than six months in advance. Once aboard, we discovered that the Excursion Desk staff had switched two of us to a tour time that departed more than 30 minutes later. When I politely asked for the new time to be switched back so we could travel together, the manager of the Excursion Desk told me, “You can either take the tour separately, or give me the tickets back¦we have plenty of people who want to take this tour.” I told him that this was unacceptable and to make it right. He eventually did, but every time I saw him in the hallway, he averted his eyes and would not speak to me. Torres del Paine: A very long day that begins in Punta Arenas and includes a bus ride to the airport, a flight in a rickety Cessna plane (the windshield de-icers did not work and the pilot flew blind for more than 15 minutes of the 40-minute trip), a three-hour bus ride around the national park, a great Chilean lunch overlooking a stunning vista at a lake, and a repeat flight on said rickety Cessna. Embarrassingly expensive at just over $1000 per person NCL should be ashamed at the premium charged for this tour, which ought to cost $500 tops. All that being said, the beauty of Torres del Paine cannot be overstated. Torres is a must-see destination that would be one of the high points of any visit to Chile. Lake Esmeralda and Petrohue Falls: A scenic excursion as advertised, but expect to share your catamaran ride on Lake Esmeralda with 400 other guests, and just try to get a solitary moment (let alone walk on the trail) at the falls as 7 to 8 buses release their passengers simultaneously. Lunch, served at an estancia, was very good, and featured as an entree some of the best salmon I have ever tasted. In Buenos Aires, Peninsula Valdes, Ushuaia and Valparaiso / Santiago we used private tour guides that were friendly, informative and significantly cheaper than NCL excursions. If you are interested in contact information, please send me a private message and I will be happy to share details. Bottom Line: Our 14-day cruise around South America on the Norwegian Sun was a memorable one, the vibrancy of Buenos Aires and Santiago are thrilling, and the natural beauty of Patagonia is incomparable. Despite obtaining a significantly discounted rate by booking via the NCL website more than a year in advance, the "nickel-and-diming" that we experienced on the Norwegian Sun made this the most expensive cruise we have ever taken (yes, surpassing even a trip on the luxury line Crystal Cruises). And unfortunately, our memories of the ship are plagued by visions of incompetency and ineptitude that would be laughable if they hadn't cost us a considerable amount of money to experience. "Do you have any money left? No? Ha ha!" - Cruise Director Pedro Cera, emceeing the final show of our cruise in the Stardust Theater.

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Sep 10, 2009

Alaska

With our 3 teenage kids, my husband and I decided to try this Alaska cruise after talking to a friend of ours who happens to be a travel agent and we were able to get a phenomenal price. As we have spent our summers RVing around Western Canada and the U.S, the idea of cramped cabin conditions did not bother us. We decided to spend extra and go for a balcony stateroom and I am glad we did. The meals: Before we left on the cruise we read over some

of the reviews and were concerned that our dining experience was not going to be so good. Fortunately, for most of the trip that was not the case. We primarily ate at the Seven Seas for breakfast and lunch and I would strongly suggest against ordering any of the sandwiches available on the menu. They seem to be made a long time before they are served, as the bread is soggy and the meat very unappetizing. Breakfast: the Seven Seas were open daily. This is where we would eat. I never did try the buffet in the Garden Cafe, as why stand in line getting your meal on a tray when one can sit and be served at no extra cost? The menu at the Seven Seas had a variety of good breakfasts to choose from such as Eggs Benedict, specially prepared omelets with your choice of filling to pancakes and cereal. Side orders of bacon, sausages, hash browns, etc. are just a request away as well as morning juices in good size glasses. The service at the Seven Seas was always outstanding. Plates were quickly and quietly whisked away, water glasses always full and asking for extra side orders was graciously received. In my opinion a very professional staff. Beverages: all alcoholic drinks cost extra and a gratuity of 15% is added, so if you want to imbibe, be ready to pay. I have heard that other cruise lines may allow you to bring one or two bottles of your own beverage on board with you, NOT SO for Norwegian Cruise Lines, they will take your bottle and leave you a note letting you know that you can pick it up at the end of the cruise. They do offer a special rate on wine if you choose 6 or more wines ahead of time (these are for any wines on their wine list and they did offer some very nice wines). Pop and mock-tails for the kids also come with a price, however the cruise does offer special books and daily specials for these as well. Coffee (including espresso, cappuccino, etc in the dining areas only) and tea are free. However, if you enjoy a good cup of coffee be prepared to be disappointed! I found it to be less than satisfying and that includes the espresso and derivatives thereof. It tastes like it has had chicory added and is not pleasant to say the least. As there is a small drip coffeemaker in the stateroom, when we docked at Ketchikan I bought a very good bag of coffee roasted there and small size filters to fit the coffee maker. I would then make my own coffee. So if you really enjoy a good cup of coffee, bring your own (plus filters). Lunch: once again at the Seven Seas and if you order one of the specials of the day you will not be disappointed. The presentation of the meal was always pleasing to the eye and the food a pleasure to the palate. Dinners: We ate most of our dinners at the Four Seasons and between the five of us did not once have a meal we were disappointed in there. The portions on the plate was just enough for us (however, when they offered the lobster and prime rib we did ask for and receive double portions). The cabin was bigger than we expected. My hubby and I slept on a king, our daughters slept on a pull out queen and our son was on a pull down bunk that was a good size twin. As I get motion sickness pretty quickly our agent friend placed us near the middle of the ship and also got a cabin that was on the starboard side going up to Alaska, which meant we were able to see the coast all the way up (something to keep in mind). Although using the bathroom was a bit of a balancing act, being used to a motorhome this was not a stretch for us. Specialty restaurants: There were a couple of times we decided to pay extra and try out some of then out. Ginza, - one night we tried the TeppanYaki where your meal is prepared in front of you by 2 cooks in the Japanese style. I remember going to one of these as a teenager and so wanted our family to enjoy the experience as well. What I remember from my youth was a lot of knife work and these being thrown back and forth between the cooks. Not much of that happened this time, which was disappointing, although as one of our kids did mention it might not have been such a good idea in a moving ship. Although the food was well presented and delicious, would I pay $25.00 per person again? Probably not. Sushi Saturday afternoon lunch. Being from the West Coast my family all enjoy sushi and there are a number of very good Sushi restaurants in the city we are from. This was all the sushi you could eat for $15.00 per person. The sashimi was fresh and tasty, but the sushi lacked the different tastes and spices that we are use to at home. So for us it was not worth the extra cost. In Le Bristo there was a special brunch set up for Friday called the Champagne Jazz Brunch with a French style buffet and a la carte menu. My hubby set a reservation for just the two of us. Although the meal was very good Chateau Briand for hubby and a filet mignon with jumbo shrimp in a barnaise sauce for myself. The service was so bad that to us the event was a complete bust. It was sold as a Champagne Jazz brunch, but no champagne was offered, and the band, although the musicianship was impeccable, the sets were maybe 10 to 15 minutes long and completely lackluster. The service was almost non-existent. My husband arrived before me and after being seated, waited for almost 10 minutes before someone came and poured him water and asked if he would like anything. It was not very busy, so there was no excuse. When I came down, I too sat and waited for our server to attend to us. When that didn't happen we decided to check out the buffet and have a few nibbles as we were getting hungry. When we finally asked the person who appeared to be the matre d for service, it never truly happened. I could describe how bad it went but what' s the use, let's just say it was a low point. My husband at one instance did get up and tell them to cancel our order as we were so put off with the lack of service that we were leaving. This seemed to help a bit and our food ($15.00 a plate) was comp-ed and they were very apologetic. Which was nice, except for the fact that our plates were not cleared, my hubby's coffee not refilled and my water glass was left empty. Later I went back as I thought I had left my room card there and I saw tables that were still not cleared and under one table a fork was left on the ground apparently unnoticed. I am not sure who oversees that restaurant but I find it hard to believe it would be the same person that oversees the Four Seasons or The Seven Seas. If we go again we will not bother with any of the specialty restaurants, in my opinion they are just not worth it. We didn't do any of the excursions as they were way to pricey for our budget. We only stayed 4 hours at Juneau which I felt was not nearly long enough. Just enough time to be bussed in to the old downtown area and go shopping. As it is the State Capital, I would have liked to have been able to see more of the city and sites. Skagway is where the White Pass Rail is and if you can afford it I hear it really is something. We did try and rent a vehicle in Skagway and drive the same route as the train for a fraction of the price. Unfortunately, we are Canadians and Transport Canada has a law in place that a CDN citizens cannot drive an American registered vehicle over in to Canada. We did talk to some Americans that did rent and they said it was great as they could stop and do what they wanted; their time was more their own. Staying 14 hours at a town that is 6 blocks long and 3 blocks where the vast majority of the stores pack up their wares and follow the cruises down south, was way too long. As for the cruise, the weather was beautiful, going and seeing the Sawyer Glacier was amazing, the nightly performances at the Stardust Theatre were very enjoyable and the majority of the staff were top notch and very professional. Would we go again? ABSOLUTELY!!!

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Jul 28, 2009

Alaska

Our family recently returned from the 7 day Vancouver/Alaska cruise on the Norwegian Sun. The positives: The serving staff, the entertainment (on our cruise - MaryEllen Hooper, Rushlow Harris and JP Parent), the ports of call, the crew's ability to navigate the ship through the fjord and to the Sawyer Glacier and the beautiful, natural scenery. The negatives: While there were many positives on this cruise, the largest negative that was

difficult to ignore was the constant 'selling' by the staff. Whether it was the hawking of 'pull tab' tickets at the Stardust lounge each night, the constant pitching of booze by the staff as well as more subtle messages from the entertainers to buy drinks. On board activities always seemed to end in the cruise line trying to sell you. It was difficult to escape! Prior to reaching Ketchikan, our first port of call, there was a 'seminar' on how to maximize your shopping experience. It was nothing more that a means of trying to persuade passengers into thinking that the shops noted by the NCL staff were THE best shops to patronize. Makes one a little suspicious. The food: The buffet meals were OK, comparable to a Royal Fork or Knight and Day for quality and the way the buffet was laid out, allowed for the occasional example of rudeness from fellow passengers. The meals in the free restaurants were nice, but not gourmet. The surroundings were very pleasant and the service was excellent. After paying for the priviIege of sailing on the vessel, we were not keen to spend another $15 to $20 per person per sitting to have a meal in the 'pay' restaurants on board, and thus can not speak to their quality. Excursions: The shore excursions proved to be more expensive when pre-booked on the ship. In some cases the mark-up seemed to be substantial. The best bet was to book an excursion from one of the companies at dockside or in town. The cruise was nice, but I'm not sure that I would do it again.

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Jul 21, 2009

Alaska

You must like cigarette smoke and terrible constant pop music to enjoy this. We were very disappointed. They allow smoking on nearly all outside areas, and they blasted pop music in all the spaces outside we could sit down. In our stateroom when we opened the door the smell of people smoking on their balconies came straight in. The staff didn't really seem to care, questioning how we could NOT like pop music. The cruise line has not responded to a

letter I sent them, which to me indicates they really don't care either. The ship had average buffet style food. Even the fancy restaurants were serving similar food, of average quality. We skipped the better restaurants most of the time to eat at the buffet for this reason. There was terrible entertainment. Constant nickle and diming from staff for events was very annoying. It seemed it was all about them sucking every last penny from cruisers rather than enhancing cruisers' experiences. We skipped all of the excursions because we didn't trust them. They directed cruisers only to stores that gave kickbacks to the cruise line (this is what many of the stores who were not listed posted on signs). The scenery was magnificent. It generally felt like living at the mall for a week.

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Jul 18, 2009

Alaska

Overall, a great experience. Lots of kids on board, but you hardly saw them out and around. The ship is in need of refurbishment at this time. Carpets are torn and the walls are pretty banged up. The chairs in the restaurant areas are in disrepair, it just needs a clean up. The common areas need to be cleaned more often. The glass tables were always dirty and smudged, dusty railings, etc. Didn't see anybody cleaning during the days at all.

The small things that people notice - dirty mirrors in the elevators, hallways, etc. Food in main dining rooms was great, as was the buffets. There was lots of variety, we loved the bakery and the pasta bars. Service in the dining rooms are great, although the buffet and sports bar lacked in this area. Dirty dishes and glasses are left on the tables for excessive amounts of time after people left their tables, and were only taken away when service staff was asked to assist by new diners. No beverage services offered, it is all self serve in these areas. Room was small for 3 people; the balconies add some room, so if you can afford a balcony, that is definately the way to go. Bathrooms are very small, you can hardly turn around in the showers. Showers themselves were great. The beds very comfy, with all white linens and duvets. Lots of closet and cupboard space. Didn't seem to be that much to do, besides the usual bingo, casino, etc. All the best activities unfortunately run at the same times, all in the evenings. Kids camps were full daily, although they really do attract the under 9 crowds. For a 12 year old, they are with the young kids so consequently will be bored, as they aren't quite old enough to go into the teen club. Shore excursions were quite pricey, but not higher than they were being offered on land for. Not alot of people doing shore excursions due to the cost factor. Overall, it was a great experience, although the on board charges seem to be higher than other cruise lines. Tipping service charge on NCL is $ 12.00 USD per person per day, whereas other cruise lines charge $ 7.50 pp per day. This can be adjusted at the front desk to either a higher amount or a lower amount, which I found many people doing (lowering it, that is). Drinks are pricey as well $ 8.95 USD for their daily special, $ 6.95 USD for a beer. They do offer "pop" cards for kids ($ 32.00 USD), tweens and adults. The adult cards are approx. $ 8 US per day. 15% grat is added to all bar bills, purchases. Photos for embarkation are taken and offered at a cost of $ 19.95 USD per 5x7" photo. Quite a bit higher again than other lines. I think they should lower their costs to $ 10.00 USD as the other lines charge, and sell more. The shopping on board is minimal, although the duty free area has a full selection of liquor, etc. for purchase. Loved the free style concept, with no dressing up for dinner, getting off the ship in Vancouver whenever you want to, etc. It makes for a much more relaxing trip. The entertainment was fabulous. Elvy Rose (cabaret singer/entertainer), JP Parent (comedian/magician) and Bud Anderson (comedian) were great. Lots of entertainment going on around the ship in the evenings. This was the highlight.

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Oct 14, 2008

Bermuda

While this ship was the easiest & fastest to board we thought this was going to be the best. We wanted to try Freestyle, sorry to say, that it was not great. I should start with the good points: Spotlessly clean. Great service, good prices, (but you get what you pay for) The cabin, although smaller than the other cruise line I had traveled with, was better engineered for storage, had a much larger bathroom, and again, was always spotlessly cleaned.

With that being said, the rest of the cruise left a lot to be desired. The food was just OK. Even at the pay as you dine restaurants: Cagney’s, Salsa, Impressions, were not terrific, but at least better than the dining room fare. The entertainment was just OK. Not a lot to do during the day. the only entertainment that I liked was the comedian, Dave Heenan, and the pianist, at one of the lounges. Perhaps it was all the wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and elderly cruisers that made this voyage not as much fun. I will not cruise with them again. OK and we'll leave it at that. Spotless, very well engineered for storage. The bedding was not as luxurious as Royal Caribbean, and the bed was hard as a rock. I did not sleep well. The bathroom was pretty roomy for a cruise ship. what on board activities? Hardly any during the day. At night there was only one show that I enjoyed and it was the comedian, Dave Heenan. I tried to make every show he did. Which leads me to this point, why not schedule two shows for those of us who rather prefer to eat later that the early bird special. the sunset catamaran ride was great. The horse and carriage ride was nice and informative. Very enjoyable. You can take the Ferry over to Hamilton and get a great $50.00 tour with a cabbie named Mr. Bailey. He was awesome. Not as great as I expected. Maybe Freestyle is not for us.

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Mar 19, 2008

Western Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Review Norwegian Sun Cruise Review 7-day Western Caribbean I.Y. Lee This is our first cruise trip, over all we had a great time; the shore excursions were exciting, the services on the ship were wonderful. Here are some of the details: Embarkation: We got the Port of Houston around 1PM, the exact time we could embark. It took us at least 2-½ hour to get to our cabin. I had read some reviews saying embarkation

was smooth and a breeze, I’m not so sure 2 ½ hours could be qualified as “smooth”. Staff at the port was quite rude and clueless. The photographer could be kind of annoying. Our luggage didn’t arrive at our cabin until 5:30PM that evening. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. Ship and Cabin: In general it’s a beautiful ship. We had booked a cabin with balcony. Thank God! I strongly recommend that if you could afford a cabin with balcony, DO IT! It’s worth it. At least everyday you get some fresh air; see the sunset and sun rise, also the cabin feels a lot bigger. The bathroom is extremely small. I’m 5”2 and 110 lb and I found it difficult to maneuver in such a small space. Services: Our housekeeping staff was nice, friendly and they did their job well. Everyday our cabin was cleaned twice, sometimes even completed with toweled animals on bed. The restaurant serving staff was polite, nothing to write home about. Food: Buffet was actually not too bad. Every night there was different theme so we got to try variety of food. Major dining rooms (Four Seasons and Seven Seas) were great too. They had better food, but not too much selection. We also tried a specialty restaurant (East meets West Steakhouse), for $20 the quality of the steak was pretty good. Overall the quality was above average, but not so special that I’d rave about it. One thing that’s worth mentioning was they have an Indian Station at the buffet if you’re tired of the western food. The staff also promoted alcoholic drinks like there’s no tomorrow. One drink could cost you $7-$10 or even more. A soft drink costs $2. They so sell a soda card for $42 and you get unlimited soda. Unless you’re a hard-core pop drinker, it’s really not worth it. Entertainment: Most of the activities were pretty boring to us. Art auctions, bingo, meet your fellow travelers, etc…but nighttime entertainment’s got more varieties. Jean Ann Ryan Production put on great shows; the illusionist’s performance was kind of insulting, very circa 1986, old tricks. The comedian was sort of funny from time to time if he didn’t interact with only one person from the audience. Shore Excursions: Everything’s expensive even from a tourist’s point of view. Make sure you bring enough cash with you. We didn’t check out any of the jewelry shops; there’s just way too many. Cozumel, Mexico: Power snorkeling. I’m not really a swimmer to begin with, so I found it challenging. But people in the same group had a lot of fun and we even saw 3 octopus! The people who led the power snorkeling activities are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They made sure the money you spent was worthwhile. Cozumel is not the cleanest place to begin with. Their toilets don’t have seat covers. Make sure you bring your own tissue paper! Belize: Cave tubing and jungle trekking. This is the number one selling activity in Belize and you can’t do it anywhere else. Try to book this one if you can. The jungle trekking part took about 30 minutes, and the cave tubing took about 30-40 minutes. It is one of the most fun things I’ve done in my life! Remember to bring your water shoes. You can also rent them there and it’ll cost you about $5-$10 US. Again, the locals are nice and friendly; I can’t say enough nice things about them. Roatan, Honduras: We didn’t book any excursion for this location. Instead we rented a scooter for $40 US a day. What a fun way to explore the island! We rode it from the pier to Half Moon Bay and it took about 20-30 minutes on paved road. We also got to see the how the locals live, it was priceless. The sun in Honduras was extremely intense, but the white sand beach was fabulous. We had lunch at Café Latino, the best shrimp and chicken fingers we’ve ever had. Debarkation: It was relatively fast and smooth. If you want to get off the ship as soon as possible, keep all the luggages in your cabin. GOD! We’re so glad to be home. Honestly we won’t take another cruise trip for a very long time. This is just not our cup of tea. The last 2 days at sea was absolutely positively a drag. We were bored to tears! The sea got pretty rough we couldn’t do anything. One thing great about NCL is their free-style cruising. We had no intention to meet anybody or interact with anybody on the ship, we just wanted to relax and have a vacation and we got it.  

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Mar 11, 2007

Western Caribbean

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Western Caribbean Deana Watkins My husband and I went on this cruise 3/11 – 3/18. This was our 4th cruise, 1st with NCL. We have previously been on Carnival Imagination in 2001, RCCL Grandeur in 2003 and Carnival Miracle in May, 2006. Overall, I would consider this cruise incredibly…. average. This was the first time we have been to the new NOLA terminal and things went

very smoothly. We drove in from Alabama on Sunday morning, about a 4 ½ hour trip, parked in the deck and got in line for the metal detectors then in line for check in. We were in line about 15 minutes, took the mandatory embarkation photo and were on board by 1:30 p.m. We had an outside room on Deck 4 and were a little disappointed with it. On the Miracle, we had been upgraded to a balcony room, which was very nice, and though we knew a standard outside room would not be exactly the same, the room was a good bit smaller than expected. Décor was the standard cruise type so we did not love or hate it. Bathroom was adequate and hubby loved the shower. Always lots of hot water and plenty of water pressure. Our cabin stewardess Minnie was lovely. We tend to be pretty low maintenance, only needing fresh towels and the bed straightened and she kept us happy in those regards. It was spring break week and lots of students on board. I’m sure their rooms were in need of a bit more attention! I decided to try NCL because of the “Freestyle” dining and the experience was OK. On previous cruises, hubby and I usually just eat the buffet all week because we don’t like sitting with people we don’t know (daughter says we’re anti-social, I say we’re just shy). I like being able to eat when and where we want, but the food, in general was just OK. We didn’t starve, but weren’t very excited either. The main restaurants were nice, but served the same menus every night. Also, one night we didn’t get dessert. Our server picked up our dinner plates and never came back. We sat about 10 minutes then left. The buffet was good for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast was the same stuff every day, but several options so you didn’t have to eat eggs and bacon every day. Waffles were good. They are served in the Pacific Heights restaurant so you have to look for them. There was an omelet station somewhere, but we never found it. Lunch was typical buffet stuff and the outdoor café served hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, etc. They always seemed to be out of hamburgers though. Pretty popular I guess. Buffet dinner was not good, not much variety of entrees. Salad bar was good though and we ate lots of salads! Entertainment was pretty good. I agree with several others I’ve read on here, the Jean Ann Ryan dance Company was wonderful. Their production of Cirque Pan was amazing! Didn’t see the hypnotist or comedian. Chantz Powell is a good entertainer. Hard to believe he’s only 19! The talent show on the last night was fun. Now to the part we really didn’t like – onboard activities. Since we’ve been on 3 previous Western Caribbean routes, we’ve done Costa Maya, Cozumel, Belize before. On Tuesday we stopped in Costa Maya, where we’ve been 3 times before so we decided to stay on the ship. On previous cruises, there are lots of things going on poolside even on port days. Not on the Sun! No band, no hairy chest contest, no ice sculptures, nothing but servers hocking helmets of beer and drinks of the day! Most of the Costa Maya day NCL workers were around the pool deck grinding rust off of hand rails! Very disturbing. More of the same in Guatemala. I wasn’t feeling well that day (allergy attack/sinus infection I’m still fighting with) so we stayed on the ship and played cards inside (I couldn’t listen to the grinding anymore). Once we got to Belize, though we didn’t have an excursion booked, we went onshore just to get off that boring ship for a while. Here you’ll find the standard tourist area but everything was nice and clean and unlike Mexico and Jamaica, there weren’t people every 3 feet screaming at you to buy something. We stopped at the Iguana Rana for fish & chips and a couple of Belkin beers (made locally). Hubby said the beer was good, but I’m not a beer drinker so I took his word for it. Last port was Cozumel and we spent the day at Playa Mia. Fairly crowded but a pretty nice day. Lots of activities, parasailing, jet skis, etc. We booked the excursion on the ship so we had use of non-motorized toys, lunch buffet and the most important part – open bar. Good pina coladas and bottled water was nice. We got a couple of extra bottles to take back on the ship. Lunch was pretty good and it was an overall nice day. I would definitely recommend going to Playa Mia if you just want a day to relax or if you enjoy lots of water activities. Good excursion for the whole family. The entertainment staff are very fond of game shows on this ship and that’s about it. They had the Newlywed game, Family Feud, Weakest Link and a Jeopardy style game. Of course, they strongly encouraged visiting the bars and shoved Bingo down your throat. The bands on board were, what little we saw of them, not the greatest. One reggae band that played by the pool only played for a couple of hours on sea days. The other club band was not that good either. Hubby and I enjoy sitting back listening to some music but we just couldn’t cut these folks. As I said, I tried NCL because of the Freestyle thing, which is a good concept, but not well organized on this ship. I don’t think we’ll be cruising NCL again, definitely not the Sun again.        

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Mar 4, 2007

Western Caribbean

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Western Caribbean Steven Migdon Let me start by saying it's easy to just trash a cruise. I have never taken a BAD cruise, but there were ones I liked better than others. This was one of them. The Sun is a good cruise...it is NOT a great cruise. The shows are good...they are NOT great. QUE NOCHE is a tribute to Latin rhythms...without one Santana song. In fact there was only

1 familiar song. The show is well done. It's just that the show itself stinks. The food is good, but not great. I go on cruises to eat food I normally wouldn't eat at home...or at least not prepared this way. The menu Thursday night included Beef Stroganoff, Baked Flounder, and Turkey. I do those meals regularly at my home. Give me something new! And no escargot unless you go to the French restaurant?? Guarantee you'll get it on a Carnival cruise. Rooms are nice, ship is nice, but nothing is great. Here's 2 great examples of why this was NOT a great cruise. (1) We opted for early debarkation. We had allot of bags but were managing. Doors were a bit tough. We got to a door...and a CREW member in uniform passed us and...kept on walking!! (2) I decided to get my film developed on board. I was informed that if I had purchased the film on board, I would have gotten it developed free. So I purchased another role. When I finished the role, I took it in for my free developing, I was told I needed the receipt. I was never told that. I GUARANTEE you that if I were on Carnival I would have been told "NOW HOLD ON TO THAT RECEIPT. YOU'LL NEED IT TO GET FREE DEVELOPING". Getting the idea? And a few final words on FREESTYLE cruising. Yes, you can eat DINNER whenever you want and with whomever you want. But you never get the same waiter twice. I kind of like having the same wait staff. They get to know you and what you like. We wound up asking for the same waiter the last 3 nights. Problem was that she wasn't available the last night...the night we wanted her the most. And freestyle applies to dinner...if you want lunch at 11:35AM, your choices are hamburgers or hot dogs. Can't the buffet roll over from breakfast to lunch? Again, it's a nice ship. It's certainly not a BAD cruise. But It's NOT a GREAT cruise.        

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Dec 17, 2006

Western Caribbean

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Western Caribbean Linda This was our first cruise with Norwegian, and it will be our last. I went on this cruise with really high hopes and left very disappointed. The only thing this cruise line cared about was getting more money out of your pocket. I will try to cover the areas that affected us the most: Children: If you are a couple or a group who enjoys having dinner,

a drink in the bar, or a nice relaxing time by the pool this is not the cruise for you. Kids were everywhere running wild and screaming all the time. When we asked the staff is there any where on the ship where we can have a drink and get away from the kids the staffed smiled and said “your room”. The pool/hot tubs were over run with kids screaming and jumping in (esp. the hot tubs) with no parents in sight. While we were sitting in one of the four hot tubs (the rest had at least 5 kids each) with a drink (in a plastic cup) one of the staff came over and informed us “no drinks in the hot tubs”. We pointed at the 4 signs which said “No glass or bottles allowed” and he repeated no drinks allowed and pointed at the safety rules on the far side of the hot tubs. I got out and read it and it said “No drinks allowed”, ok fine, but right under that was “No kids under the age of 16 allowed in hot tubs without accompanying adult”, we mentioned this to him and all of a sudden he couldn’t understand us and walked away. We learned very quickly that the only rules enforced have to do with the cruise making more money. Drinks: If you are on a budget like us and you enjoy a few drinks now and again, this cruise is not for you. A six pack a beer is 22.50 (plus they add on 15% gratuity automatically) and that is with a deal “buy 5 and get the 6th free” and a mixed drink with one shot in it is about $8.00. They confiscate all alcohol when you board (and they search your bag at embarkation and when returning from each port). Hint: Don’t be fooled by the ad you get in your room on the first day that says come to the duty free shop on the ship and buy two bottles of (insert type here) for this price. On the way down there we heard multiple people complaining, but we continued on. We get there and the sales guy informed the people in front of us (after they bought it) that they can pick it up after the cruise. They returned the stuff and got their money back, but didn’t leave too happy. We went back to our room and read that ad cover to cover and it never mentioned this would be stored until the end of the cruise. Food: Food was terrible in the non pay dining room (buffet style). The formal dining rooms (which you pay $10- 20 per person to get into) were good. The sushi was definitely worth it. Hint: The dining rooms have dress codes (no jeans, shorts or tank tops). But this is not enforced, so wear what you want (I prefer jeans anyway). Because each time we were in the dining rooms about half the people were wearing jeans (we only saw 3 in shorts), but out of approximately 50 people it was pretty high. When we mentioned this to the managers on duty, we were first told it was due to the cold weather. Then later it was changed to “they lost their luggage”. So be careful between the airline and cruise it seems more than half of the passengers will lose their luggage. Onboard Activities: There is nothing really to do if you are over the age of 12 or under the age of 60. Some of the on board day activities were napkin folding classes, money counseling for couples, watch someone sculpt something out of ice or vegetables. And the adult only activities did not start till about 11:00pm, so you had to wait around until then to do anything. Ports: Costa Maya Mexico, Belize and Cozumel were great. All of them had lots of excursions and easy access to local beaches if you just want to relax. Santo Tomas, Guatemala- Ships docks in a shipping yard. If you don’t do an excursion there is nothing here. Everyone said the waterfalls were nice, but extremely crowed since it was one of the only excursions to do. When you get off there is a small warehouse to shop in and that’s it. We walked out the gate and were bombarded by the local kids each asking for a dollar (not just asking they were touching and grabbing you) and then the cab drivers set in. After about 5 minutes outside the gate we were asked over 20 times by cab drivers asking if we wanted a ride (and not one of them took no for an answer we had to a say it at least 3 times), so we headed back in. Back on the ship we were talking to some of the staff and they mentioned not to go into town because it was dangerous. This port should be taken off the cruise itinerary. Overall I would give this cruise a 1.5 out of 5. Our cabin was nice; the balcony was worth the extra money.        

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Dec 17, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Dan N. I'll start by saying the Norwegian Sun is a nice ship. Not as opulent as some I've been on, but still nice. Honestly, there was nothing on this ship that stood out above the others I've been on other than our dinner waitress. Kudos to Valentina in the Seven Seas Dining Room. If you can get her, do so, you will not regret it! (You have to get there early

to get her because of that freestyle dining thing they do… which I don’t think is all that great either) Also, I'm a budget traveler, so I'm not apt to spend money on all the added things they want to charge for nowadays (coffee bar, specialty restaurants, internet service, spa treatments, etc) which can send the price of a cruise skyrocketing beyond most people's budgets (not too mention the cost of anything with liquor in it, or the 22.75 for a six pack of beer that I had to fork over one night) If you're budget conscious and like to drink, a cruise is probably not the place for you. In all honesty, the cost of alcohol is an issue on almost all ships, so it's hard to berate just NCL on that issue. However, I'm very disappointed specifically with NCL in a few areas. It may be great for honeymooners or retired people with no children... but for families, I feel they fell way short when compared to other lines such Carnival, Celebrity, or Disney. Other cruise lines allow you to sign a release that allows your child to sign themselves in & out of the Kid's Club on their own if you think they are responsible enough. Mine certainly are, and I found NCL's policy of making me take them and return to pick them up in person very inconvenient and irritating as I had to leave activities to get them there or leave shows to make sure mine were signed out by 10pm to avoid paying the "babysitting" fees. They ramble on about "safety", but if they were really that safety conscious, they would outfit each child with a GPS unit so a parent could locate their child at any time... Let's call a spade a spade here, they want to have you leave your kids there past pick-up time so they can throw in a movie and charge you the "babysitting" fee. This isn't a reflection on the staff, but rather NCL's policy. My kids seem to enjoy the activities and staff in the Kid's Club. Also, on my past cruises, juice or punch was always offered at the drink stations as an alternative to tea or coffee throughout the entire day/night. On NCL, you can only have juice with breakfast, and then they remove it from the drink station. I'm sure there are many kids out there that don't like to drink tea or coffee the way adults do. So you're left with making them drink water or buying them something from the bar... That chaps my hide to no end! I'm being penalized for bringing children on my cruise... What's up with that NCL??? Now, if you don't have kids, you'll probably be ok if you like these two things: Sleeping in a sauna and prison beds. Yes Sirree Bob... Our room was so hot (even with the thermostat all the way down) that one night we had to sleep with the door to our stateroom OPEN because it was cooler in the hallway than our room. Now I know I blow a lot of hot air, but to have to sleep in nothing but your drawers with no covers and the door open tells me something's wrong (even though they said is was working correctly). My parents were on this cruise with me, and they said their room was ice cold... So maybe it's a factor of us being on the "po man's" deck (deck 4, bottom of ship) vs. my parents being on deck 10 (because they've taken 34 cruises)... lucky dawgs! And this is the first cruise I've been on that their definition of bed was a cot with a pad on it... Ok, maybe not that bad, but it's not much of an exaggeration. The mattress was maybe 4 inches thick on the edges, and maybe 1 or 2 inches thick in the center, and you could feel the springs... or whatever it was in them that kept poking me in the butt every time I rolled over. After the ordeal with the A/C, I didn't even bother to mention the bed to them. I sure would like to see the cruise companies follow the hotel companies’ lead and start putting really nice beds in their rooms. I'd pay an extra $50 for that... it would be well worth it! On a side note, this ship goes to Santo Tomas, Guatemala... You are advised by ship personnel not to walk in this town as it's extremely dangerous. Duh? Hello? Anybody home at NCL? Why do you port in a dangerous city? They must have really given you one heck of a kickback.... Norwegian gets rated at 3.5 stars... for me, that's a stretch. Norwegian has moved to the bottom of my ship rankings and I'd never again consider them for a cruise that I was taking my children on. I'll stick to somebody that know how to cater to families.        

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Dec 17, 2006

Western Caribbean

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Western Caribbean Brady First of all, this was an amazing cruise and I (my wife included) would recommend this cruise line to people of all ages. The freestyle concept was superb and accommodating for newlyweds like us all the way to seniors. It was the perfect honeymoon. I will try to cover each aspect of this cruise starting with onboard items and then ports of call.

EMBARKATION The process was fairly simple. We arrive at the New Orleans cruise terminal around 2:00pm. We were greeted by luggage porters who put tags on our luggage and carried them off. I tipped him $1 per bag. Before entering the terminal, you will need your boarding pass as well as photo ID/passport. Inside, the security line moved pretty quickly and no problems arose there. After security, we waited in the check-in line about 30 minutes. We performed the necessary check-in procedures and were on our way to the ship. Before leaving the inside terminal, the first of many pictures were taken. We waited only a few minutes on the gangway before having our keycard scanned and were on the boat searching for our cabin. OUR CABIN We had a cabin on the 8th deck, category BC ocean view with balcony. It was a very nice stateroom. It had a light cigarette smoke smell so if the smell of smoke bothers you be sure to enquire about making sure your room will be smoke-smell-free. We had plenty of storage. There was a 13-in TV, a mini-fridge, and only 1 electrical outlet on the vanity. There was also snacks and drinks in a cabinet available for purchase. The bed was two twin beds pushed together with king size bedding. The beds were an ok comfort level but were only comfortable if you were not in the middle. The bathroom was small but functional. There was a stand shower only, no tub. The balcony was a plus and I plan to always have a balcony stateroom on future cruises. DINING If there was one area that I felt that NCL could improve it would be in this area. Don’t get me wrong, the food was great but for the average American it was food we are not used to. The standard cruise-fare food such as prime rib, filet, and lobster were served on various nights. There are two main dining rooms both have the same menu with occasional differences. Each meal in the main dining room is 4 courses. Very classy and adequate. If you want a less-formal dinner there is a buffet on Deck 11. The dining rooms have dress codes such as no jeans, tank tops, etc and the buffet is less concerned with dress code. We did not eat at any of the pay restaurants this cruise. We will try them next time. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is served at the buffet and at Seven Seas as well as other no cover charge places. Dinner only is served at the Four Seasons. Room service was good but takes a long time to get it. There are plenty of options for dining without paying. ENTERTAINMENT This category was excellent. The dance company was out of this world. They did a Broadway musical themed show, a Latin-dance show, a Cirque-de-Solei through the eyes of Peter Pan, and a Christmas variety show. There was a hypnotist show that we weren’t interested in and a jazz/singer variety show that we did not attend. There were two show times for each of the shows. Definitely attend all the shows. ONBOARD ACTIVITIES There is something to do at all times of the day. Just consult the Freestyle Daily. If anything else, grab a chair by the pool and people watch. COSTA MAYA, MEXICO This was the first port of call. If you want to do a shore excursion here, book early because they were already sold out when we went to the desk on the first day at sea. All that was here was a nice resort-like area built by the cruise lines. There was a huge saltwater pool as well as restaurants and shops. It was plenty to occupy most of the day there but an excursion would maximize your time here. GUATEMALA You must do an excursion here. The only thing to do right off the boat if a little port building with family vendors selling items native to the country. We did an excursion to a beach resort which was a 15 minute boat ride away. It included lunch. It was beautiful and well worth the money. It was called the Amtique Resort. BELIZE This was a great port. You have to be tendered in because the water is too shallow for the boats to dock at the city. We did the Bacab Resort and Butterfly House excursion. It was excellent. We took a coach bus 45 minutes into the country side to a resort/ranch area. There was no beach but a huge swimming pool with a waterslide and body chairs in the pool. It also included a lunch. Again, well worth the money. COZUMEL I recommend getting a travel book for this port. It is a big city with a lot to do. We didn’t do an excursion here -  we just shopped. I would say to wait to buy goods such as vanilla and liquor here. The most beautiful water was found here so this would be a good port for snorkeling or scuba diving. There was still minimal hurricane damage but the shops were all open. OVERALL I would give this cruise/itinerary a 9 out of 10. Well worth the money and then some. I hope this review gives you some insight. It’s a general review. Be sure to attend all the info sessions onboard regarding shopping ashore and customs information. Again, great cruise. NCL will be my first choice for future cruises.        

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Nov 19, 2006

Costa Maya, Guatemala, Belize, & Cozumel

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Costa Maya, Guatemala, Belize, & Cozumel Caroline Wright What an amazing experience I encountered this past week on the Norwegian Sun. From the moment I stepped on the ship I was treated like royalty. The crew is so genuine, caring, generous, and helpful. The embarkation process was a breeze; we were met promptly at the airport with an NCL Staff waiting at the baggage claim and

took a bus to the ship. While on the bus we were given a “mini tour” of all the sites we were passing. Once we arrived to the port the entire process took about 25 minutes! *The Restaurants: They were all spectacular. There are 4 specialty restaurants that require a reservation and a cover charge of $12-20 per person, but it’s worth every penny!!!! We weren’t interested in spending that much so there is an early bird special, if you make reservations at either 5:30 or 6:00 then you receive 50% off the cover charge (this is a great deal). If you aren’t interested in spending money the other restaurants, Seven Seas and 4 Seasons are way above satisfactory, (they both have the same menus). The Entertainment- Amazing, always something to do and never a dull moment. The shows made me feel like I was at a Broadway production in New York. The Dancer, Singers, and actors were all very talented!!! *The Rooms- Were huge for a cruise ship and very inviting. The room stewards were so kind and surprise you each night with a towel formed in to an animal and a piece of good chocolate. I’m the type that is NOT interested in shore excursions because, I don’t enjoy being hauled in a bus with 100 other people, waiting in lines, and not much personal attention for the big bucks you pay. If you do like shore excursions do not book through the ship. It is overpriced!! I would book over the internet before you leave through a private company OR when you arrive at each port; People are standing outside the gate with tons and tons of opportunities for a cheaper price (stay away from the shady people). Costa Maya- the only thing to do here on your own is to go to a town about 5 minutes away ($3 taxi ride). There are $20 Massages on the beach for 40 minutes, which was amazing! If you are going shopping be sure to haggle the vendors, because their merchandise is 10X the actual value. I also found Cozumel better for shopping. If you want to swim on your own, this is the only port I found to do it. The water is gorgeous! Guatemala- we rented a taxi for a tour of the Island $80 for 2.5 hours. If you do this ask your driver to stop at a roadside stand to get some authentic Mexican food from the locals. We got lunch for 3 of us for $6!!! Belize- This was my favorite destination. We booked a private shore excursion on the Internet before leaving and it was great and is HIGHLY recommended. We did the Aerial Trek Cave Tubing and zipline with a sweet couple, Nacho and Cynthia. The zipline was exhilarating and the tubing was so incredible, then we had a delicious lunch following. This was so much better to do with a small group because we had 2 guides for 6 of us and most other people there (who booked through the ship) had one guide for every 50 people! They speak fluent English but are native of Belize so they know everything about the area. There e-mail is nacho_Cynthia@yahoo.com and website is www.ncqadventuretours.com. Cozumel- this is where I found the best deals for shopping, most everything is much cheaper! I didn’t see much of the city because I was so tired, so I don’t have any tips to offer for Cozumel. But get up early (by 8am) to get your tender ticket.      

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Oct 21, 2006

Panama Canal

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Panama Canal Emily Mosley My new husband and I had a very nice time on our honeymoon and overall really enjoyed the cruising experience, but because of some issues with the Norwegian line (mainly the disappointing food and ridiculous drink prices), the next time we cruise we will try a different line. We do, however, highly recommend most of the ports of call: Cozumel, Costa Maya,

Belize City, and New Orleans were fantastic! San Tomas, Guatemala proved to be pretty scary, but I think our mistake there was not doing a shore excursion. Before going on, I would like to point out that my husband and I are not dining connoisseurs by any means, so when I speak about the food portion of the cruise I just want you to know that we did not go into this expecting outstanding cuisine. We had read reviews comparing it to regular buffet fare; I even enjoy restaurants like Golden Corral more than most people so we didn’t think it would be a problem. However, we found the food to be mostly terrible, worse in some cases than the school cafeteria we consumed a few years back…now that’s pretty sad! The automatic $10.00 per day per passenger gratuity was fine with me, but I feel that the 15% tax added onto anything purchased was excessive. Hygiene issues were handled very well, hand sanitizer being available at all restaurants and when boarding the ship after shore excursions. Embarkation and debarkation are both pretty easy; no terribly long lines or anything like that. Debarkation was hindered a little when we were assigned the latest debarkation time, 10:30. We hadn’t anticipated such a late time since the ship docked at 8:00, but we were able to easily trade our time in so that wasn’t an issue. Just be aware that it takes almost three hours to get everyone off the boat so if you have things to do that morning you’ll probably want to do the express debarkation. Our stateroom was one of the least expensive, bottom deck, no windows or balcony. I highly recommend getting a balcony, our room was positively tiny and would probably have been much worse if we weren’t honeymooning. I don’t know how people with kids can stand it! Also, if we were obese at all we probably would have gotten stuck on the toilet. I’m not trying to be funny; I was truly worried for some of my fellow passengers. The bathroom was teeny and probably also really upsets claustrophobic people. The shower was way better than we had expected although I had a hard time getting cold water from it or the sink. The beds were two twins that could slide together to make a double. It wasn’t great but I’ve slept on worse. After the housekeeping staff came in they saw we had put the beds together so they put a double sheet over both beds to keep them together better and that was nice; our room steward was always very pleasant. The room had a TV, which was nice. One channel is dedicated to the available shore excursions and one to the ship’s positioning, speed, distance traveled, etc. It also got a few movie channels, Cartoon Network, and CNN. The room has a safe, coffee maker, hairdryer, and mini-bar. The min-bar’s prices are outrageous: $1.75 per soda, $1.50 for candy, almost $3.00 for a tiny can of juice and mini bottles of alcohol for $7.00--$9.00 apiece! The actual ship is very beautiful and almost intimidating at first because it’s so large. It’s much more fun after the second or third day when you know your way around better. There’s great artwork, especially in the Java Café and on the staircases. There’s an internet café that’s part of the open atrium so it’s great for people watching or looking at the ocean out the window but the pricing is ridiculous! 75 cents a minute, although that’s better than the $6.00 a minute it costs to use the telephone! The galleria shops are ok, if I were really interested in perfume or jewelry I probably would have been more impressed. You have to walk through the casino to get to the shops, which annoyed me since the casino is the last place I would have chosen to be. The actual shops were fine and we found a few NCL souvenirs, but the people running them were awful! Not rude necessarily, but distracted, all of them, all the time. It’s got to be in the employee training video, because a couple of times they weren’t even busy! One lady got really flustered when asked about what merchandise they carried and didn’t know the difference between a Christmas ornament and a key ring. When we asked her why there were no Norwegian Sun ornaments, only ornaments for other ships like the Dawn and Majesty, she unkindly explained that the shops weren’t part of the Norwegian company. I just looked at her, thinking, “Yes, but you’re running a shop on their boat, selling products with their logo all over it, it seems like you would have an idea what you’re selling.” On several different occasions there we had salespeople simply walk off while we were still asking them questions. The pools and hot tubs are nice, although they are in the middle of the ship all in the same area, so everyone who wants to swim or sunbathe are all fighting for the same lounge chairs and tables around the pool. At sea days it is way too hard to find a good place, if you want an afternoon to sunbathe you should do it on a day the boat is docked, unless you don’t care about being near the pool. There are two bars on either side of the pool area so drinks are plentiful (and expensive!) We ended up paying $9.00 a drink for drinks in souvenir cups and then $7.00 a drink after that. The staff peddling them is very nice, but once you have a drink in hand, especially an empty one, you will be plagued by server after server after server trying to sell you another one. A couple can spend $100.00 in one sitting, easily, without getting drunk. The best time we found to visit the hot tubs is at night, when everyone else is at dinner. There was a children’s pool around the side of the deck that looked cute, and it had lots of little colorful lounge chairs around it. My husband enjoyed the Havana Club Cigar Club, which is attached to the Windjammer Bar. We usually went there after dinner and it gets pretty smoky in there but is still nice. A very enjoyable piano player was usually there and there’s a great drink selection, although still very expensive. My husband also really liked the Champagne Bar because you can smoke there, as you can in all of the bars on the ship. The Windjammer Bar and Cigar Club are on the interior of the ship, both very dark. The Champagne Bar is part of the atrium, so the view of each floor and the ocean out of all the windows is fabulous. Also, the bartender Mr. Abraham was great and my husband’s buddy on the nights I didn’t feel like accompanying him to smoke. I don’t smoke but the smell doesn’t bother me…however, for people that it does bother, you will be pretty upset by the end of the cruise if it’s a longer one. Ours was seven nights and by about the fifth or sixth day you could really smell the smoke in all of the places smoking was allowed, like the bars, casino, and even the atrium (which meant the coffee shop, internet café, and reception desks.) Although we didn’t check anything out, we did stop by the library and while browsing I found several favorites; the selection is quite good. We did not go to either of the art auctions, but supposedly there was free champagne. We also did not try the spa but there are discounts in the daily newsletters given out, so I would wait to see what’s offered, unless you just really have your heart set on a certain treatment. There are also specials on jewelry, precious stones, Bingo, and other things in the daily newsletter. The second to last day there was a huge sale on all the alcohol and tobacco products, which there are a lot of. There is a photography area on the ships where all photos taken on the cruise are put on display and can be purchased. We bought one set for about $15.00, overpriced but we hardly had any pictures of us together. Be aware that the embarkation pictures are taken down for a day or two and replaced with formal night photos but will be put back up eventually. It can get pretty crowded in there sometimes. We didn’t see much of Dazzles Disco; you have to go through it to get to the cigar club. Truthfully, it was pretty embarrassing sober when everyone else had obviously been drinking quite a bit, although it was also fun to watch the people dancing. Also, once I had to make my husband wait until “My Sharona” finished, the music would have probably been more fun with a group of girlfriends. Up until now I haven’t had anything terribly negative to say about the cruise, and if it weren’t for the food we would probably be cruising with Norwegian again…but the food was terrible, and that’s too bad. We ate quite a bit at the Garden Café and the Great Outdoor Café because it was easier when we were rushing in the mornings plus I don’t normally like getting dressed up. The Garden Café is cute and has great views but is usually crowded; sometimes so much that we couldn’t get a table. It’s also cold but we didn’t like eating outside, it was normally too windy or hot. Both the Garden Café and the Great Outdoor Café are buffets and I will say this for them: they always had a good variety of desserts and they were pretty good for the most part, especially the Mexican chocolate cake. However, several times the selection and/or food was absolutely terrible. One night the Garden Café had what it called chicken pot pie…this was gravy, peas, and parts of chicken, bones and all. The scrambled eggs at breakfast were horrendous, and I’ve been known to like cafeteria eggs—it’s pretty hard to mess those up but the Norwegian Sun succeeded. The bread selection was always good but some biscuits would have been nice in the morning. My husband was also upset that there were no grits and that the sweet tea wasn’t sweet enough. I guess you can tell we’re Southern. The Garden Café does different themed nights; American, Italian, and so on. We went to those two plus Mexican and Oriental. Mexican was great, really good taco bar and desserts although not a huge selection. American night was a complete joke (that was the chicken pot pie incident; we ended up ordering room service instead.) Italian night and Oriental night were both big letdowns as well, there was not a strand of pasta to be found anywhere on Italian night! Oriental night was pretty much the same thing that had been served every other night, just with teriyaki sauce on it. My husband, who loves Chinese buffets, was very disappointed. The Great Outdoor Café has good fries, ok burgers and hotdogs. My husband didn’t like the buns at all and wouldn’t eat his. Mine were kind of dry but I don’t normally discriminate when it comes to bread products. One major complaint is the beverage selection. In the morning it’s juice, water, or milk served in a tiny glass that holds maybe four or six ounces. The other two meals it’s water, milk, or iced tea, none of which I care for. Sodas are $1.75 each unless you want to buy the $42.00 soft drink pass. I did not want to buy the pass, I simply drank more water than I like to and ended up getting dehydrated in Mexico anyway. As small a thing as soda is, those prices are one of the things that will keep me from cruising on Norwegian again; I think they seriously need to rethink that, as well as revamp some of their meals and recipes. Anyway, back to the food. I ended up having fries from the Sports Bar on Oriental night; they’re great but take about ten minutes to cook. The burgers there are ok and it has really nice views. Both Four Seasons and Seven Seas are nice restaurants but nothing spectacular. We had breakfast at Seven Seas and the menu had a fair amount of choices. The French toast was good and the service was excellent. I’m sure the views are nice if you’re not docked in Guatemala. This restaurant is hard to find though, you have to go up one floor extra and then down the stairs, it’s confusing, so I don’t recommend looking for it when you’re very hungry. We had dinner twice at the Four Seasons, once it was fairly good and the second it was terrible. The menu is fairly unimpressive, I ended up having to order the grilled chicken both times and it was ok. The first time we dined there was my husband’s favorite dining experience on the ship but the second time, our last night on the boat; his steak wasn’t nearly as good. Also, our service the first night was great and we had a beautiful view of the ocean but our on second dining experience the waitress was terrible, completely uncaring. You could just tell the whole wait staff was ready for it to all be over and that they didn’t care anymore at all. We tried Pacific Heights for lunch on one of the days, the pizza tasted homemade and was very good but the pasta was not. The restaurant is very beautiful though and has awesome views. We didn’t try any of the other specialty restaurants but they looked very nice. Room service was nice to have around. It’s 24 hours and although the selection isn’t wonderful it’s sufficient. The departure BBQ from New Orleans was ok, good potato salad but the main dishes were barbequed chicken and kielbasa, nothing impressive. That night everyone on the boat (except us, I guess) got completely trashed and stumbled about on deck, greeting each other like long-lost relatives. One poor man my husband ran into on the elevator had his rum confiscated, but obviously not before he had consumed most of it. The Chocoholic buffet was a complete and total disappointment. This was one of the things I was most looking forward to, and I didn’t even get to go because it began at 11:00, only lasted an hour, and was in one of the restaurants you have to be dressed up at night to go to. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling up to it after our Cozumel adventure and the cruise directors were hoping for that, because chocolate is expensive…but that small thing is another reason we won’t cruise with Norwegian again. Cutting corners is evident everywhere. We had a boxed lunch prepared by the ship for our Tulum excursion and everyone complained about it. The cookies, fruit cup, granola bar and pound cake were all fine but the sandwich was disgusting, tuna fish without the mayonnaise. How hard is a turkey sandwich?? The last part of this review is about the shore excursions, and so it will be incredibly positive. I think that’s fitting, considering overall we had a great time and my husband even lost weight instead of gaining it they way most people do! In Costa Maya, Mexico we visited Bacalar and the Seven Color Lagoon, which was our very favorite shore excursion. Our guide was Jesus and he was absolutely great; our driver Victor was also very good. We visited a Spanish fort and saw pirate bones, then had lunch at a cute thatch-roofed hut on stilts over the water. The water is the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen, just Google pictures of it and you’ll see what I mean. After lunch we were able to swim in that clear blue-green water with no fear of sharks because it’s freshwater. We highly recommend doing this excursion! In Guatemala we didn’t do a shore excursion, deciding to check out the town on our own. Don’t do this. Book an excursion or chill by the pool while it’s not crowded, which is what we did after getting freaked out on the streets of San Tomas. Definitely shop for gifts in the small market right beside the pier and barter like crazy, you can normally get things for about half of the initial asking price. Don’t try to go to “that pretty grassy area” you can see off the boat, it happens to be a naval base guarded by men with machine guns. Belize City is great, although I’ve read that you shouldn’t go off on your own here either. There’s about a 45 minute speedboat tender ride to the pier and the shops are very nice, clean, air conditioned, etc. Also, English is spoken everywhere, which makes things easier. My husband and I did a shore excursion into the jungle to ride a “jungle buggy” and visit a Mayan cave. The actual shore excursion, although pretty neat in its own right, was our least favorite of the trip. The jungle was pretty but hard to get to; the bus ride was long and bumpy. The jungle was hot and had bugs the size of Cadillacs flying around, and the cave was fairly unimpressive. It was big enough and we got to see some bats and a weird spider up-close, but there was the most annoying of all children in our group and I was constantly being pushed past so one parent or the other could chase her into the darkness. Lunch provided there was so-so but everyone was very nice and Gilbert, our guide, was the best! He’s funny and engaging and very genuine all at the same time…if the tour sounds appealing to you definitely request his group! He is a reggae musician in Belize—call him Mr. Program and ask him to sing for you; the political song was my favorite. Wish I’d bought it in a Belize shop; I’ve been searching the internet for it since. Cozumel was another amazing experience in life; we saw the Mayan ruins at Tulum. After the ship docked we had to wait on a ferry for over an hour in the hot sun (and then short rain shower) while we waited on another cruise ship that was running late. I recommend taking a book on all shore excursions, and Dramamine. Those buses get really bumpy…I got sick and I’ve never been carsick before. The boat ride to the mainland took about 45 minutes and was nice. Our guide Lily was also very nice but not as personally engaging as Gilbert or Jesus. We learned a lot from her though, and we were able to stop at an indoor Mayan market for souvenirs before we got to the ruins. The ruins are absolutely fabulous, the most gorgeous views of temple and then the bluest ocean you’ve ever seen in your life. There are iguanas everywhere and pretty trees and flowers but the sun was so intense I thought I was going to die. Definitely take a hat for this trip, I never wear them but wish I had worn one. Also, take sunglasses, water, sunscreen, and bug repellant…and take a bathing suit! We had asked the shore excursion desk if we would be able to swim on the excursion and they said no, but we took our suits just in case and we did have about an hour free time after the tour, which we used for the ocean. It was perfect, swimming in the clear water and looking up at Mayan ruins…probably the best thing we’ve ever done. We definitely recommend this excursion as well! However, be aware that when we visited the men’s bathroom had no roof, and construction workers were hanging around where the roof should have been…my husband ended up changing in the bushes and the mosquitoes were huge! I don’t recommend doing that. New Orleans was very nice, although there is still quite a bit of storm damage in some areas. We accidentally wandered into a slightly rough neighborhood while looking for Lafayette Cemetery #1 and the destruction was devastating. I couldn’t help crying after seeing row after row of abandoned houses, a moldy doll in the middle of a deserted street, a frilly white baby bed in a gutter. It was sad but all the residents were very pleasant, and eventually we found the cemetery, which was really interesting and pretty. Wear bug spray. We also visited New Orleans #1, other cemetery, and that was great too. Both times we went on our own although people are advised to take a tour and not go alone. We didn’t have any issues at all except for one crazy man on Bourbon Street, and even he wasn’t that bad. We went to Bourbon Street on a Sunday and it was disgusting, trash everywhere and standing smelly water from the parties the night before. Jackson Square was beautiful though, as was the Garden District houses. The Trolley Stop Café on St. Charles and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville in the French Quarter were both superb, Bacco was good but not great. Our hotel, the Avenue Garden on St. Charles, left quite a bit to be desired. So, all in all, the trip was great but the actual cruise ship could have been better and I do recommend shopping around there. If you’ve already booked on Norwegian I recommend looking for a place to dine when you’re just a little hungry, not starving, because it may take a while to find something good. Be prepared to dress up for dinner if you want a fairly nice experience, but even then don’t count on it. I don’t know if bringing snacks on the ship is allowed, I know bringing alcohol on isn’t, but if it is I recommend bringing them, and sodas if you drink a lot. I don’t even want to know what we spent on that kind of stuff during our trip! Be prepared to be flexible, I ended up ordering room service on two different nights and that was ok. Definitely book shore excursions ahead of time. It was really easy and when we arrived our tickets were waiting for us on the bed. Expect to spend a ton of money on alcohol, even if you only drink moderately. We will certainly cruise again, the experience is amazing, but next time I will research the cruise lines more thoroughly. I hope this has been of some help!    

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Aug 25, 2006

Panama Canal

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Panama Canal Thomas Such Making the Reservations: My cruise partner and I made our reservations through one of the online discount travel agencies. They were having a sale, so we booked our August 2006 cruise in January 2006. Making the reservations was easy, and making changes was easy too. Our original balcony stateroom was port side of the ship, but after re-thinking the trip,

changed to a starboard side balcony stateroom. Very glad that we did that since it was nice to wake up each morning and see the place we would be visiting later that day. Our airfare from Boston was on Alaska Airlines, and was a very comfortable flight. There were a few extra seats, so we were able to spread out on our non-stop trip to Seattle. Everyone was given a complimentary breakfast, even though the in-flight magazine said we would have to pay for it. We chose to embark in Seattle since it would be a less expensive flight, and also shorter flight time. (Not to mention that we wouldn’t have to go through customs just to get on the ship.) Transfers: Once in the Seattle/Tacoma airport, while waiting for our luggage, we enquired as to where cruise ship transfers were located. Everyone was very friendly and helpful in telling us where to go. We had prepaid for our transfers to the ship, so that we wouldn’t have to scramble for taxis or the like, since we had never been to Seattle before. Seattle appeared to be a pretty, clean city, and it was a bit of a shame we hadn’t decided to spend at least one day there, but we were on this trip to see Alaska, after all. After getting on the bus, it was a quick 20 minute ride +/- to the pier. Embarkation: Getting onto the ship was virtually painless. There were lines in the terminal, but that’s to be expected when a ship can hold 3000 people. We had to show ID, and give a credit card for our onboard account. Next we had our pictures taken, and were given our credit-card style boarding passes, and were then allowed to get right onto the ship. Even though they say that embarkation starts around 1pm, we were able to get on board as soon as we arrived—in fact we took our time, but still beat our luggage to our stateroom. (It arrived a short time later, and being able to get onboard early is worth the short wait for your luggage.) Our Stateroom: As stated earlier, we had a starboard side (right side, when facing the front of the ship) balcony stateroom. It was the perfect size for two (and we are two fairly tall men), and was spotless. There was plenty of room for all of our clothes (and we brought a good deal, since we had some very active excursions planned). The bathroom was small but very efficient. The only thing that could be considered ‘wrong’ with our room was that the remote for the TV was for a different TV, so it didn’t work. We didn’t even bother to say anything since we weren’t on this trip to watch TV anyway. And since we were there to see Alaska, it was worth it for us to have paid extra for the balcony. We kept the door and curtains open almost the entire cruise. It was nice to wake up with such beautiful scenery just outside your window. The spotless when you arrive, and throughout the cruise. It really was gleaming. I am not going to go into much detail about the ship itself, since as I keep stating, we were on this trip to see Alaska. It was nicely decorated, clean, and comfortable. A few areas on the ship did require some thought as to “how do I get there from here?” But if you take the time to tour the ship at a leisurely pace at least once, it was no problem. Restaurant Dining: Having been on a few other cruises before this, we thought that the “Freestyle” idea would be interesting. Although we are not usually the type to wear suit & tie, it is occasionally nice to dress up for a meal—but just as nice to NOT have to do so. We did eat in a number of the specialty restaurants onboard. We were traveling with some friends, so it was nice to be able to have a table for four all the time (we are the rare cruise-ship passengers who prefer to keep to themselves while dining). All of the restaurants were excellent. We had impeccable service in both specialty restaurant, as well as the main dining rooms. If you are considering spending the money on specialty restaurants, I will say this: The food is great in all the dining areas. The main difference in the specialty restaurants is that they are much less crowded, and you will have a much more specific menu. So look at their menu before you decide to go. If you like what you see, try it. I must admit that we did not go to the French restaurant “Le Bistro.” Their menu really didn’t appeal to us. Public-area Dining: The buffets were usually well stocked, and with a nice assortment of food. Of course the selections were much simpler than what was offered in the service restaurant areas, but that’s a given with buffets. There were also always a lot of people in these areas almost all of the time. Getting a table could be difficult. We made a habit of ordering coffee from room service at breakfast (it’s free), and then grabbing whatever else we wanted from the buffets, and returning to our room with it. It was much simpler than waiting for tables to open and we had that great balcony. One drawback to the buffet seating areas and bars were the numerous servers who kept on asking for bar drink orders over and over. Excursions & Ports: This section is the reason I’ve written a review! I wanted to let folks know how much fun we had on our excursions. One thing I will say initially is that we planned our Alaska excursions to take up as much time as possible. We were not there to go T-shirt shopping; we came to Alaska to see the great outdoors. So we also didn’t choose our excursions due to cost…that was secondary to what was offered. With that said, our first port was Ketchikan, and our excursion was: Tatoosh Islands Sea Kayaking (~$135pp). This was a really fun excursion. The ship docked in the harbor, and we had to be shuttled to the docks in Ketchikan, so it was a good idea to get to the departing area early, since it gets crowded (due to the shuttles). Once in Ketchikan, our tour guide was waiting for us, and was very friendly. We then had about a 20 minute drive to the outdoor center where we would meet up with a few more kayakers. Next we were taken by high speed pontoon boat to the Tatoosh Islands, where our kayaking guides and kayaks were waiting. For a group of about 17, we had 2 guides. The guides couldn’t have been nicer! Not only were they very good at describing what to do, and what not to do, they were also very knowledgeable about the environment we were now in. After our first 5-10 minutes of paddling, the group split up in two, with each guide taking half (they watched to see who were the faster kayakers, and split the group accordingly-- we were in the faster group). During our paddle time, we saw numerous bald eagles, seals, and starfish. Not to mention the beautiful scenery that was all around. Overall a great day! At the end of our kayaking, they had snacks and hot chocolate for those who wanted it. We then said our good-byes to our great guides, and we were taken back to the outdoor center. This was a very friendly, and informal tour, and I highly recommend it! It was rated at a level 2 according to NCL, and I would say that was accurate. Since the guides split the group according to ability, everyone had a great time. I’d definitely do this excursion again! The following day, our port was Juneau, and our excursion was the “Guides Choice Mendenhall Glacier Hike” (~$85pp). This excursion was rated at a level 3 by NCL (most difficult). Not sure I’d agree with that rating. Overall, the park we were hiking in was beautiful! Our guides were very friendly. The glacier was impressive! But I would not do this excursion again. NCL describes this hike as “brisk” and “for people who love to hike.” Well, we love to hike. This tour was more like a slow nature walk. I think the guides were attempting to accommodate all their guests at the same time, with the very very slow pace they set. They split the group in half, but never once bothered to ask which individuals were hikers. They did ask which of us were interested in botany—to which no one replied (I should have taken that as a sign). We did learn a lot about lichens, and fire-weed, and Devils something-or-other, but that was not why we chose this excursion. We love to hike, and wanted to hike. Not take 20 paces and stop. Take 20 paces and stop. Take 20 paces and stop. Take 20 paces and stop. Oh, and then, oddly after the walk was over, the guides didn’t want any of us to go into the visitors center—at all! I couldn’t figure this out, and so I ran in to quickly purchase a post card. My only thought about this, was that once inside the visitors center, people might realize that they could have bought a trail map for $2.00 and had taken a public bus to the park, and therefore avoided paying almost $100 for the NCL excursion. My advice in Juneau: Definitely see the Mendenhall Glacier. Only do it via public transportation. It’s within a 20 minute drive of the docks, and you can go at your own pace. Tracy Arm was next on our itinerary. This was not a stop, but was a cruise up a narrow channel with a glacier at the end of it. Absolutely beautiful! We never did get close enough to see the actual glacier. The captain made the announcement that it “was getting dark, and there was too much ice in the water,” so we had to turn around. We thought he wimped out. And then there was Skagway! We chose the White Pass Railway & Laughton Glacier Hike (~$180), rated at Level 3 by NCL (and I would say 3 was accurate). What a fantastic excursion! There were 3 guides for this hike, so they were able to accommodate various levels of hikers. We were able to hike as fast as we wanted, and had a great time. Our group was in the first car on the train, for about 30-40 minutes. This was where we were given “bum-packs,” snacks & water, and also made our lunches for the hike (a nice sandwich spread provided by the guides). At the trailhead, the train stopped to let just our group off, and we then were given more gear—hiking poles & outerwear if needed, and a lecture on what to do if we encountered bears (we didn’t). After a brisk hour-and a half hike, once on the actual glacier, we stopped to eat our lunches and found out a lot of interesting facts about the area. When finished, our guides asked who wanted to continue further onto the glacier and just under half of our group went. That was the best part of the hike, because we got to see some beautiful deep crevasse’s, and pools of glacial melt water. But I will leave that good stuff for you to find out for yourselves. We headed down the glacier the same way (more or less) that we came up, and hiked out to the train at a very brisk pace. We had to wait just a few minutes for the train to arrive, due to our guides great planning. Oh, and they had a cooler of ice-cold beer ready for us upon our arrival to wait for the train! The ride back to town was even better than the ride up; since our reserved train-car was now at the back of the train (we were first behind the engine on the way up). We were able to have beautiful views from the rear of the car, riding outside all the way back. Our guides then provided us with more snacks for the ride down. We did arrive back in Skagway with a very short period of time left to get back to the ship, but our guides transported us back in a private van. All-in-all, a great day! ! Hats off to this guided tour—I’d highly recommend it, and I would do it again! Our last port to visit was Prince Rupert, in Canada. This port was a very small town, not really affected yet by cruise ship tourism. There wasn’t really much to do there, but we did get off and walk around even in a light rain. We spent about an hour or so in a bar on the pier, and had a few appetizers and some tasty, and (compared to the cruise ship) inexpensive beers while watching the Red Sox on TV. Very few excursions were offered here, and we chose not to do any. We figured that after 3 very active excursions, we’d want this day to rest. Weather & clothing Advice for the clothing you should bring for an Alaskan cruise would be: Dress for early spring. The weather varies from Sunny & warm in Seattle, to rainy & cool while at sea, to virtually winter-like in Tracy Arm and on Glaciers. I used everything from my bathing suit to my business suit, and also wore a lot of fleece, and Goretex too!    

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Aug 11, 2006

Panama Canal

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Panama Canal Marilyn Plickerd My husband and I took our first cruise this month and we thought that we had prepared well and explored all of the options. The brochures were wonderful and filled with a lot of activities but the cruise was a huge disappointment. We felt less than welcomed by the staff . The food was less than stellar. The coffee was the worst that I have ever

tasted. The only place that you could get coffee free was the buffet or restaurants. Enjoying a cup of coffee while sitting in a lounge looking at the scenery was impossible unless you paid for it. The crew did not try to involve people in any activities on board and I got the feeling that they couldn't have cared less if anyone did participate. The shows were scheduled too late in the evening for anyone to enjoy if they were taking any of shore excursions. The songs were all from the fifties and sixties. The excursions of the ship were wonderful but I must admit that they were overpriced also. The worst thing that happened was that my daughter called the ship during the middle of the week to inform me of a death in the family and she was told that we were not registered on the ship. She told them the name of the group that we were with and the name of other passengers that we were traveling with and was told that none of us were on board. It cost her $40 dollars to find out nothing and not be able to talk with me. It was very heartbreaking for her and the rest of my family to have to wait for five more days for me to get home. The cruise line had to have an emergency contact from us before we cruised but then couldn't find us on the ship. I would certainly not recommend this cruise line to anyone and I am not certain that I would try another cruise considering the enormous cost of cruising. I feel that I can get more for my money by flying in to some destination and then doing the excursions from there.    

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By Joe_CR

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Jun 2, 2006

Alaska

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Alaska Joe Just completed the June 3rd Alaska Cruise on the Norwegian Sun. Overall I would rate this experience as excellent. I shared this experience with my family of four which includes a 10 and 17 year old. A. Some items of interest for economic travelers. We were looking for the best deal we could find to see Alaska, so we traveled the most economic way possible. Quite

frankly, having read several of the previous reviews about NCL Alaska cruises, I was very concerned about what to expect. Before the cruise, I contented myself with the idea that I was getting a competitive price for a family of four to see Alaska, and that the ship was just transportation to get us there including a room and meals. I was not expecting the extravagance of a voyage on the QE II. Having completed the cruise, I can now say it was an enjoyable and fun experience which I would gladly recommend. 1. We chose an inside stateroom (no outside view). The inside deluxe was more than adequate for a family of four. We had six suitcases full of clothes and all of it fit into the closets, drawers and cubbies in the room. The suitcases easily stored under the bed out of the way. I did bring a dozen thin wire hangers and used them all to supplement the wooden hangers provided in the one full and one half size closets. There is a king size bed in the room plus a couch that expands into a double bed and a full size bunk that comes down over the couch. We did not mind having a room without a view since when the main sights came along such as cruising the Inside Passage and going into Tracy Arm, almost everybody was either on deck or lounging at the window seats at the various dining areas and lounges to get the full effect of these sights happening all around the ship. Also, sunrise up North is 3:50 AM and sunset is around 10:00 PM, having a stateroom without a window may have been an advantage to keep the room dark during normal sleeping hours. 2. We did not partake in any of the specialty restaurants offered with freestyle cruising. Each time you opt for a specialty restaurant it costs $20 per person extra so for a family of four that’s $80 and with kids with simple tastes it’s not worth it. So we used the surcharge free dining at the Garden Café, Great Outdoor Café, Seven Seas Dining Room, Four Seasons Dining Room and the various lounges such as Los Ramblas and Pacific Heights. Also, room service is free 24 hours per day. The room service menu is limited to continental style breakfast and the lunch/dinner menu includes sandwiches, drinks and some dessert items. In addition, all drinks except iced tea, water from the dispenser, coffee, hot tea and cappuccino (dining rooms only) cost extra including bottled water and lemonade. A can of soda was $1.75 plus a 15% surcharge, a glass of soda was $1.25 plus surcharge. Specialty drinks were over $5.00 each plus that surcharge. We ordered drinks a few times, but mostly settled for the free stuff. We also brought some of those single serving lemonade packets which you add to a glass of water if we were in the mood for lemonade. We also packed about a dozen mini-sized bottled waters and bought a few more when we visited ports. 3. Gratuities - Keep in mind that you pay a $10 per adult, $5 per child (3-12), per day gratuity which is added to your ship account. In addition, there's a 15% gratuity charge on everything you order. There is no requirement or obligation to provide any other tips. For exceptional service there is a line on every bill that says, "additional tip,” so you can leave extra for the server that provides you exceptional service. 4. We made our own airline arrangements to get to Seattle not depending upon NCL to do this for us. Made several weeks in advance we felt we got the best deal and had total control over our flight schedule (no unnecessary delays or layovers). Also, we chose to come a day early and rented a car. This allowed us to get acclimated from the East Coast to West Coast time change and relax before starting the cruise. A modestly priced hotel in the city allowed us to spend some time at Pike’s Market and be near the pier where the Sun would arrive. Several of the car rental agencies have downtown offices so after dropping off the family and luggage at the pier, I drove a short distance to drop off the car and they gave me a quick ride back to the pier. Call first, directly to the local rental car office to find their location, car drop off procedure and policy on dropping you off at the pier. B. Some basic Information about the Ship and NCL experience: 1. Embarkation – The literature says boarding starts at 1:00 PM, in fact it is 11:30 AM. By a fluke, we arrived around 11:00 AM and found we could check in our luggage and get checked in (set up a shipboard account and get our room key cards). There was no one in line when we got there. At 11:30 AM there was a 20 minute long line to board primarily since you are passing through security (metal detectors and carry –on item scanners) just like at the airport. We were in no hurry, but for info it took about an hour for the luggage to get to the room. A simple lunch (sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs) was available when we got on board at the Garden Cafe and Great Outdoor Café. 2. Food – This is Free Style Dining and as I stated before we did not use the specialty restaurants since we did not wish to pay the extra per person surcharge. In several of the previous cruise reviews I saw mixed emotions about the food especially for the no surcharge dining. Perhaps my family and I have simple tastes, but we thought the food was very good. a. The Garden Cafe and Great Outdoor Café is buffet style. People spoke of long lines at these locations, but I never once waited in a line longer than a few people. First, the dining hours are very long; breakfast is 6:00 AM to 10:30 AM, lunch is 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM, dinner is 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM. We easily found times when there was no waiting whatsoever. The food was not fancy, and I won’t say that everything was to my taste because we all have our likes and dislikes, but it was plentiful and varied enough to find something that I enjoyed. Your basic buffet style food included a beef carving station, fruit station, salad station (including Cesar salad made to order), cheese and cold cuts, soup station (not always to my taste), bread station with a variety of breads offered, dessert station including sugar free choices, and the ice cream bar with regular, yogurt and sugar free ice cream. There was pasta made to order (the best is in Pacific Heights with various sauces offered), hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, Caesar salad and desserts (Great Outdoor Café), and pizza (Pacific Heights). Again, not fancy, but we always found something we liked, dress is casual, and the view is great from the Garden and Great Outdoor Cafes. b. Seven Seas and Four Seasons Dining Rooms are your usual served food dining experience with one big exception, you can pick your time to eat within the established dining hours and if you time it right you can always get a window table. Dress is casual for breakfast and lunch, no jeans or flip-flops for dinner (no jacket and tie were required). The breakfast menu was the full assortment including omelets, eggs to order, various meats, cereals (hot and cold), etc. We didn’t do lunch here, but the dinner menu had recurring items always available such as salmon, chicken, and steak, a good kids menu with the usual chicken nuggets, hot dogs, pizza, etc. and then about four or five daily specials, appetizers (choose as many as you want), soup, salad and a choice of desserts. Also, here’s where you get the free cappuccino. c. On mornings when we entering port early (7:00 AM) many people have shore excursions starting at 7:30 AM. From previous reviews I heard that breakfast time were quite busy on these days at the various eating locations since people had early shore excursion to get to. So unless you are an early riser and wish to eat between 5:30 AM and 6:30 AM, we ordered room service on these days. It says the earliest you can order room service breakfast is 6:30 AM, but you can request an earlier time if your wish. We had no problem receiving our breakfast order on time even on these supposed busy days. 3. Activities – There were many activities on the ship and we did not participate in all of them, but here are some comments about the ones we attended. a. Shows – There were Broadway style shows on board which were very enjoyable. There were also guest entertainers which apparently change for each voyage. A special show at Skagway just before leaving port with a local entertainer who told the “Alaska story” in stories and song was excellent. b. Lounges – There is live music during the evening hours in all of the lounges. You do not have to buy a drink to sit in a lounge and enjoy the entertainment. The only restriction was after 11:30 PM only 18 years or over could be in the Disco. The karaoke was a hoot in the Observation Lounge and beside the usual less talented attempts (which were done for fun), there were also some really talented passengers on-board. b. Casino – To play any game you need a obtain a casino card which you can get at the casino. For you slot lovers they had nickel, quarter, dollar and five dollar slots. You put your card into the slot and then insert dollar bills into the slot to play. If you win, “points” are tracked on your card. At the end of the cruise you can redeem it in for cash (if you have 25 points or more) or apply it to pay against your shipboard account. There was a slot machine contest that you could enter as well as a Black Jack and Texas hold 'em poker contest. There was a fee to enter the various contests. My wife and I tried the slots and did not see enough of a pay off to keep us interested. Frequently we would pass by the casino and see very few people playing the slots so I don’t think we were the only ones that felt the machines were not paying off very well. d. Craft Making – If you enjoy crafts, they do offer some on board. Both the cruise directors staff and there were volunteers with NCL that had four classes during the trip. Crafts were easy for both adults and children. 4. Tracy Arm is a very narrow passageway (fiord) and we were amazed how a ship this size could get in and out (nice job Captain). In May and early June if there are too many icebergs the ship, for safety reasons, cannot navigate the full length of the passage. I understand the first few cruises of the season did not even get inside Tracy Arm at all. On our cruise we got within sight of the glacier, but no where near it due to ice. It was still a great trip in and out of the Tracy Arm, but if you are expecting to get right along side a glacier you may be disappointed unless you catch a cruise later in the season. 5. Debarkation – If you can carry your own luggage off the ship you can depart the ship at 7:30 AM. We were able to do this and breezed off the ship including passing through Customs in about 10 minutes. If you need help getting your luggage off then your area of the ship departs at an assigned time schedule which is provided to you the night before. The last area off is called at 9:00 AM. There are cabs available at the pier. If you are renting a car it looked like Thrifty was the only one near the pier. We used Hertz and they paid our cab fair to their downtown office to get our car. Again, call first directly to the local rental car office to find their location, car pick-up procedure and policy on coming to get you at the pier. C. Weather, Ports and Shore Excursions – From the start it was my expectation that getting off the ship, seeing the sights and experiencing what Alaska and Canada has to offer would be the primary goal. With the exception of cruising the Inside Passage and Tracy Arm, I couldn’t wait to get ashore. My aim was not to spend a great deal of time at the pier side souvenir shops, but to get out into the countryside and see the wildlife and scenery. Also, at Ketchikan, Skagway and Juneau there were at least four to five cruise ships in town simultaneously, so things could be pretty crowded along the waterfront. 1. Alaska, even in June, can be cold (45-65 degrees F). With the ship in motion you can have a wind-chill that will drop this into the 30+ degree range. We did spend a lot of time out on deck nonetheless. This is not a Caribbean cruise though some people dressed like it. First consideration is location, the Great Outdoor Café for instance is on the stern so it is less windy here and on sunny days it was warm enough to eat out here and enjoy the view with a jacket on. Also, the pools are heated to 80+ degrees, hot tubs to 100 degrees and kids pool to 70+ degrees. Many people did use the pools on the nicer (60+ degree) days. For the colder days and more exposed areas of the ship (such as the forward observation deck), we brought jackets, sweat shirts, sweaters, gloves, regular shoes with warm socks, jeans and pull over hats. We used them all. Alaska is known for its rain so prepare for it and it won’t affect your plans. For instance, in Ketchikan it rained, but we brought small compact umbrellas and used them. We also had ponchos, but didn’t use them. When going into Tracy Arm which is full of icebergs and a glacier, it was cold, even with the ship moving at a crawl. Thankfully, it was not raining or overly windy, but the place to be was on deck to appreciate this exceptional experience and I would estimate the temperature was in the 40’s. In Juneau we opted for a whale watching boat excursion. The boat had a warm and cozy interior cabin with free coffee, tea and cocoa, but the place to be when looking at the whales and other wild life is on deck where the temperature was in the 40 degree range. 2. In Ketchikan we had to anchor out and take tenders to get ashore. This does not happen all the time, but it can happen. You need to get a boarding pass to get on the tender (no charge of course) which is handed out in the Disco. The ship has six tenders each capable of handling 100 people which are constantly coming and going (it’s a trip of 10 minutes). Nobody knew any of this, so there was an initial rush to get passes. People with shore excursions to catch at a certain time get on first, but I can tell you we were able to get on the second tender and be ashore by 7:45AM. 3. As stated before, with a family of four we opted for economy so we purchased only one shore excursion package which was the whale watching out of Juneau. This still cost over $400+ so this was going to be our one big paid excursion. We saw four or five whales and one (an infant) did jump a couple of times and made it worth our money. We also saw some eagles, seals and some distant, but readily seen, glaciers. Again, dress warm. You are on the water on an open deck taking pictures. We were once again lucky that it was not raining, but it was overcast and cold. We had about two hours to go when we returned from the whale watching with time to get a table at the famous Red Dog Saloon. Not surprising, it was crowded, but because we came later we didn’t wait more than 10 minutes to get a table. With $8.00 for a hamburger, about all you’ll want is a quick drink and a few photos just to say you’ve been there. 4. To avoid the high cost of additional shore excursions, in Ketchikan and Skagway we rented a car. This has the advantage that you can go anywhere and do anything you want. a. In Skagway for instance, the scenic train ride would have cost my family over $400. My car rental for the entire time with gas ($3.15 per gallon) cost less than $100 and we followed the same basic route as the railroad through White Pass and continued for 75 miles into Canada all the way to the Yukon Territory and the town of Carcross. Remember, you are crossing the U.S. border into Canada and you will need your picture I.D. the same as you will need on the port stop at Prince Rupert, Canada. We stopped whenever we wanted to take pictures and enjoyed the scenery along the way. In Carcross we shopped for souvenirs, caught a quick lunch and made a stop at the local convenience store for bottled water, soda and snacks to take back to the ship. On the return trip we took the usual photos at the “Welcome to Alaska” sign as we crossed back over the border, there was still a small amount of snow along the road as we hit the 3000+ ft elevation of White Pass, and we stopped at the Gold Rush Cemetery to view the infamous grave sites of Jefferson “Soapy” Smith and Frank Reid (both died in a gunfight) and to see Reid Falls. We got back three hours before the ship left and still had time to enjoy the shops and sites in Skagway. b. In Ketchikan, we rented a car and drove north out of town all the way to the end of the highway (16 miles). Along the way we stopped at Settlers Cove Picnic and Campgrounds and walked into an old growth forest and viewed Lunch Falls, visited Salmon Falls Resort and viewed Salmon Falls (we were too early for lunch in the waterfront restaurant), Totem Bight State Park (no charge) and saw the totems and clan house, stopped along the way to take pictures whenever we wanted including the view at Ward Lake, and hit the best souvenir stop in Ketchikan, the Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart had every souvenir you could buy near the waterfront including shirts, jackets, Christmas ornaments, knickknacks, refrigerator magnets, post cards, etc at less than half the price. We could have continued south of the town to visit Saxman Totem Park and enjoy more scenery, but it was a rainy day and we had already seen the totems at Totem Bight so we decided to turn in the car and spend an hour walking the main tourist area and visit Creek Street. Total cost for a rental car and gas was less than $70 (the distances are a lot shorter in Ketchikan). 5. Prince Rupert is the last stop on this cruise and is a very pretty town which we enjoyed. We were the only cruise ship here and I expect it is because it’s all they can handle at one time. It is only a 4 ½ hour stop and with so little time most people by this point were shopped out after three previous port stops and got back to the ship early. It seemed to me we just killing time at slow speed getting to Prince Rupert and then all day Friday heading back to Seattle. I recommended to NCL that instead of heading to Prince Rupert, that after Skagway on Wednesday they head to Glacier Bay for a Thursday morning viewing and they would still have 1 ½ days to make the 600 miles back to Seattle. D. In summary, my family and I were pleased with this cruise. The best judge of any experience is how you feel when it’s coming to the end, and I can say we wish it were just starting instead of ending.  

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May 12, 2006

Alaska

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Alaska Lillian Arrived in Seattle at 130pm and was taken to the Convention Center to wait for boarding which was VERY delayed. We were offered a box lunch. Finally boarded ship at 9pm and began the quest for something to eat. (bed wasn't turned down but was charged 20 dollars for the day) Food was terrible in the Buffet area. In the pizza/pasta cafe you could only get water

and ice tea. Lots of kids dine there. If you wanted milk or coffee you had to get it from the buffet and take it back. Staff was always there to bring expensive drinks from the bar though. Must of had abundance of chicken because it was served every time I was there. LONG lines at the buffet and other 2 dining areas. Found it hard (almost impossible) to get breakfast on days I had to get off the ship early for outings. The best food I had aboard the ship was at the East meets West. Steak/seafood was very good. Seven/Four seas were pretty good. My friend got sick 2 days after boarding along with a lot of other people. He purchased the 42 dollar soda card only to use it twice. Shore outing were ok. Did not get to see Sawyer Glacier because of the ice bergs. The train ride in Skagway was way over priced at $106 pp. You travel 20 miles up then coast back the same way. Lumberjack show was pretty good. Lots of chances to buy jewelry. Every town had well over a dozen shops just on the main street. Casino for the most part was expensive. Photographers held up lines which made lots of people upset that were trying to get to their meeting point on time. Not much variety for the shows. Same show at 730 and 930.When I hear people say they gained weight from all the food, I want to know where they were eating !We lost weight just running around the ship trying to find something to eat. I ended up ordering room service so I could have some coffee. This being our first cruise I'm not sure if I want to do it again.

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May 12, 2006

Alaska

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Alaska Carolyn Stewart THE PORTS WERE GREAT. IF YOU LIKE STANDING IN LINE THIS CRUISE IS FOR YOU. WE STOOD IN LONG LINES FOR EVERYTHING. (EATING- GETTING OFF THE BOAT, ETC) THE FOOD WAS NOT WHAT I EXPECTED. WHATEVER YOU DO DO NOT LET NCL BOOK YOUR FLIGHTS. WE WIND UP BEING DROPPED OFF AT THE AIRPORT AT 10:00 IN THE MORNING AND OUT FLIGHT DID NOT LEAVE TILL 10:30 PM AT NIGHT.

WE SPENT AROUND 24 HOURS IN AIRPORTS TRYING TO GET HOME. VERY FRUSTRATING CRUISE. YOU WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THIS WAS THERE FIRST CRUISE. FOR THE AMOUNT OF MONEY WE SPENT ON THIS WAS VERY UPSET ABOUT OUR WHOLE EXPERIENCE ON THE SHIP.

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By J.J_CR

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Apr 22, 2006

Panama Canal

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Panama Canal J.J We booked this trip nearly 16 months in advance to insure that my wife and I and three other couples had our choice of staterooms and deck preference well in advance. We all prefer balcony staterooms in as close to the mid ships as possible for the best cruising without feeling significant movement of the ship during rough seas. Our group ranges in age from

56-64 and we are definitely not cruise and booze people, but we do have a real good time when we are out and about. Our primary purpose was to transit the Panama Canal and see the cliff divers in Acapulco, not to mention have a great vacation. The 17 day cruise started April 23, 2006 and was completed May 10, 2006. Embarkation In a word "awful" because the Norwegian Sun was supposed to go out of New Orleans, the accommodations in Miami were make shift at best. There were (5) other ships there on our sailing day and they were embarking on their cruises as well, so they had the good accommodations. When we arrived at the dock we were given tags for the luggage by the porter and the only thing we needed to put on the tag was our cabin number. We were then herded into a serpentine line by an NCL employee and we could see the line would eventually take us into a good sized tent. What we didn't know was that once in the tent there were two Miami Harbor Patrol people in there checking cruise documents against passports or other ID. We stood in the hot sun for over an hour before getting into the air conditioned FIRST tent. This had to be especially hard on the majority of the older passengers all above 70 years old by our guess. NCL employees came out often to give us cups of water. Once inside we were checked by one of the two patrol people that I really believed wanted to be a comedian as he made some sort of joke or comment about each person he checked. If he would have been in the blazing Florida sun like us I'm sure he would have hurried. This situation was out of NCL's hands and the Miami authorities had complete control of the check in station. After the first tent there was a walk half the length of the ship where a "comfort tent" to keep you out of the sun for a few minutes had been erected. We then proceeded half the length of the ship to another "comfort tent" to stand waiting to enter a large tent where the medal detector was checking carry on luggage and people as they walked through. We then were sent to the registration area in the tent where U.S. citizens and non citizen lines were set up for registration. The non citizen line was at least twice as long as the US citizen line and getting through registration and the metal detector took no more than 15 minutes. We found out later that there were less than a thousand U.S. passengers on board and over fifteen hundred International passengers. With our cabin keys in hand we proceeded on the ship through the check in and hand cleaning stations. We took an elevator to the Viking Deck #8 and proceeded to our cabin. Unfortunately, the door keys didn't work. We put our carry on luggage in one of our groups cabins and proceed to the Garden Cafe on deck #12. Had a real nice lunch there with the food being very tasty and a real nice selection. After lunch, I went down to the reception area on deck #5 and received new keys which worked just fine. Shortly after getting in the cabin we met our cabin steward Donnie and asked for one additional pillow and a foam mattress pat. We had read about the pads in a previous review. Donnie had no problem accommodating our request that evening when he made up our room. We did have a problem initially with the air conditioning in our room and one request to Donnie for help and the problem was solved by maintenance. Don't get me wrong, the AC won't freeze you out of the room, but was comfortable for sleeping. Other than that problem the room was excellent with plenty of storage and even through rough seas due to its mid ship location on deck #8 we felt very little rocking or rolling of the ship. At Sea Days There were many activities to occupy your time while at sea including all the traditional cruise ship venues. We chose to go to the pools early usually around 8:00 a.m. and there usually was no one there. We noticed the pool area filled up around 11:00 which was in the full heat of the day and way too hot for us. There were ample pool lounge chairs and small round tables for various items. The pools were at 77 degrees and the 4 jacuzzi's were at 100 degrees. Port of Call Willemstad, Curacuo We took a "Beach Express Tour" snorkeling excursion. It was the first time most of us snorkeled and after getting several goggle and mouth fulls of salt water we all got the hang of it. It was a short ride to the beach area and our guide and driver were a lot of fun in their old school bus. The island itself was formed by volcanic eruptions and the areas in the sea are full of coral which i found when I lost my balance and skinned my knee on some. It was nice to be able to stand up on the bottom when you got tired as well as clean out your mask and tube (LOL). The tour and beach fun were very much worth the $78/couple cost of the excursion. Port of Call Oranjestad, Aruba The excursion we chose in Aruba was a glass windowed boat exploring a ship wreck from World War II off the coast and then a tour of the island including the Natural Bridge in their wildlife refuge was similar to a state park in the U.S. This tour was in an air conditioned bus and again very much worth the $114/couple cost. Our first phase was the glass windowed boat. We boarded a power boat at the Holiday Inn and went out into the sea and transfer to the glass windowed boat. Even though the boat was air condition, the climb down stairs to the bottom of the boat and the close proximity of the passengers might make you feel a little sea sick. You are actually only 5' underwater, but the 20% magnification of the window glass makes everything closer. We were fortunate that the sun was coming out of the clouds during our tour giving us some incredible pictures and film of the wreck. The next stop was a big rock some chose to climb, but we elected to walk through the gift shop and then get back on the bus in the air conditioning the outside temperature was about 90 with 98% humidity and I mean to tell you it was HOT!. We then went to the natural bridge which we found out on the way had collapsed in September 2005. The smaller bridge was still there, however, so that worked out ok. The coast line in the northern end of the island is very rugged in comparison to the white sandy beaches of the touristy town area. Port of Call Port Lemon, Costa Rica This city was one of the most poverty stricken cities I've seen in my travels abroad and absolutely filthy with garbage and trash strewn everywhere. We chose a pontoon trip on the Black River to view wildlife. Again, we were on a nice air conditioned bus that took us through the heart of this poverty stricken city and country. The tour was for 4 hours of which two and half of it was driving to and from the river. The trip appeared to be no more than about 20 miles, but because the road was so full of potholes we crawled most of the way. If the road would have been in good repair it might have taken no more than forty minutes each way. The pontoon boat had a leaking pontoon on the port side and on the way back under power it began plowing through the water getting the people on that side of the boat wet feet and some even got some of their belongings wet. It felt pretty good while we were moving, but when he stopped to look at animals it was really hot. On the trip we saw sloth's, monkeys, and several species of birds. The wildlife and the fresh fruit after the pontoon ride were nice, but at $138/couple in the heat and humidity we wouldn't recommend it. Transiting the Panama Canal Transiting the canal and six locks is by far the highlight of the trip. To be on this huge ship with only 24 inches to spare on each side from hitting the sides of the lock is unbelievable. The co-ordination of the six toy locomotives that pull the ship into each lock and then steady the ship in the lock while the water is either raising or lowering is something you must witness to truly appreciate. There are a total of six locks in the Panama Canal with the first three at the Atlantic side. The fourth lock is about the three quarter point of the journey and the last two are at the Pacific end of the canal. It takes the whole day to make the transit. There are many places within the canal that two huge ships like ours I doubt could even pass. The co-ordination of the passing is all done at the locks and is timed flawlessly. We saw two crocodiles during the transit and number of species of birds. We heard holler monkeys, but they were to far away for us to see. Another thing that gives one an appreciation for the engineering of the canal and locks is the control buildings at each lock base. The last one at the Pacific side was so close to the ship that we could just about touch it. It couldn't have been more than six feet from our balcony. Initially, we intended to get to the front of the ship on the observation deck to watch the transit, but they were standing six deep there. We went to the back of the ship on deck #11 where we were able to get refreshments and food at the Out door Cafe and really see first hand how the locks and the entire system operated. Port of Call Puntarenas, Costa Rica When we left Port Lemon we were told by our guide that on the Pacific side of Costa Rica was the well to do side and seeing shacks and cardboard houses was only on the Atlantic side. WRONG! The area looked identical to Port Lemon with garbage and trash everywhere, burned out houses and empty lots covered in trash. The beach area was absolutely pitiful with garbage, trash and even an old toilet seat laying on the beach. The one and half hour bus trip into the mountains had trash all the way along the roadway which we informed by our guide is one of the principal roadways in his country. The road was a two lane truck route that was in poor repair and in our view very dangerous to pass on. They got us on this excursion, it was no more than a long bus ride to buy souvenirs that were probably the same as we saw around the dock area. We were taken to a "tourist trap". The high light of the trap I mean trip was the fresh fruit and cookies provided at the Sargi cart makers shop. Cost of this excursion was $80/couple and again is not recommended. Huatulco, Mexico City and La Guelaguetza Show Excursion We boarded our air conditioned bus for a ride around this small town in southern Mexico. The temperature was over 90 and humidity was about 96% the day of our tour. In other words it was really hot. The trip around this small city included a stop at their very old Catholic Church where three cute little Mexican kids sold us some hand made jewelry and the girls each bought a fold up fan to help with the heat. The last part of the tour was at an outdoor theater where it had to be over 100 degrees in side with very little air movement causing most people to leave the very long dancing performance soaking wet. We did receive refreshments there and on a scale of 1 to 10 we might rate it a 5. Cost of the tour was $116/couple. Acapulco The highlight of Acapulco was of course the cliff divers. We took a bus tour around the city and stopped at several places, but the cliff divers are what Acapulco is all about. There is a hotel just adjacent to the cliff where the divers perform and that is the base used by all the tours., There is an excellent view from there, but your are a good 250' away from where they actually dive. My wife talked me into going down the 146 stairs to an observation area right across from the divers probably no more than 60' from the actual cliff. The walk down in the 96 degree heat wasn't to bad, but the walk up wasn't easy. All in all this was by far the best place to watch them dive. The observation area was about 20' up from the water and for taking pictures especially movies it was perfect. I even got a picture with my wife and two of the divers because this area is where they walk down to and then after the dive they come back up those same 146 stairs. Oh by the way, I made it up too soaking wet with perspiration. Cabo San Lucas We took a bus tour to a small town named Todos Santos about 50 miles up the Baha to have an authentic Mexican lunch and tour the city. One of the main attractions is The Hotel California made popular from a song by The Eagles. We also toured Cabo San Lucas mostly from the bus and can see that it is one of the up and coming tourist areas of Mexico. Entertainment Entertainment was very diverse in the Stardust lounge located on decks 6 & 7 aft. There was excellent entertainment from singers, magicians, comedians, jugglers and even a hypnotist that hypnotized my sister-in-law. We always went to the early show so that we could have dinner in the Seven Seas restaurant on deck 5 aft. Obviously, the proximity of the restaurant and lounge made it very convenient. The highlight for us of the entertainment provided was the three productions by the Jean Ann Ryan singers and dancers. These young people that have been brought together are from all over the world and were absolutely outstanding and provided great entertainment. They did two totally different show during the cruise and are a can't miss. There were many other entertainment opportunities, but we chose to basically relax and not partake in them. However, a lot of the passengers did and appeared to be having a great time. Staff Services NCL of course is free style dining which we prefer ever since our first cruise on Princess. There is no restriction on when or where you eat except with in the confines of the regular dining hours. During lunch on our third day in the Seven Seas we had a young lady from Romania, Mihaela, and her assistant from the Philippines, Anicia, wait on us. These two girls had three tables they were working with twelve people and they were absolutely excellent. They never left us waiting for anything from keeping our glasses full to cleaning crumbs off the table. At dinner that evening I asked the Maitre'd if we could be seated in their section. The matre'd gave me a kind of questioning look, but asked us to wait a few minutes to be seated. The wait was no more than two minutes and we were led to a table for eight, our party size, which was not in the area we had eaten lunch in. I pointed this out to the matre'd and was told it would be all right. Within a few minutes Mihaela and Anicia came to the table and got us started with drinks and appetizers and through out the evening showed us the same great service that they had done at lunch. Well, the next night I again asked for Mihaela and Anicia and again we were led to the same table and within a few minutes both girls were there to wait on us. This was our regular routine at dinner for the remaining 12 days on the cruise. As it turned out, even on the first night when I asked for them they were not even working in that dinning room, but were in the cafe on the eleventh deck working. The staff at the Seven Seas brought them down to wait on us and us only every evening what ever time we arrived. I don't think you can get any better service from NCL than that. Thus, free style dining can also be assigned seating if you play your cards right. We rewarded both girls well at the end of the cruise. Food First, we are not connoisseurs of gourmet food. But if you see us, you know we like to eat. We ate all of our evening meals in the Seven Seas and about half of our breakfasts and lunches. We ate in the buffet only on shore days and ate in the outdoor cafe when the taste was for hamburgers and the like. My wife had Italian food in for lunch the La Bistro and I had sandwiches a few times in The Las Rambles and they were great. We were very satisfied with all the food in the Seven Seas dining room and felt the Garden buffet was as good as any other buffet we have had. In other reviews we have seen a few that criticized the food especially in the buffets, but my goodness people its just as the name implies one step above a cafeteria. If you wanted better food go to the main dining rooms and quit belly aching! Debarkation Absolute chaos thanks to the United States government! U.S. Customs was to be on the ship at 7:00 a.m. to begin the customs procedure in the Observatory Lounge. We were waiting in lounge chairs on Deck 11 and witnessed them finally showing up in the parking lot at 8:21 a.m. By the time they got on board and the process started it was almost 9:00 a.m. When the wife and I went through the Customs agent did nothing more than stamp our form without even reading it just as he did for those in front and in back of us. The procedure to disembark was to be by color code of your bag tags. The first two colors were called and the process started about 9:40 a.m. Then about twenty minutes later we heard that everyone that had been through customs could exit the ship. We headed for the stairwell only to find the entire stairwell jammed with people. We made it to deck 7 when the jam up stopped us cold in our tracks on our way to deck 3 to disembark. By 10:20 we were off the ship and headed for our bag color code area. We got the bags and left the area to our hotel via cab. This chaos would have been completely avoided if our illustrious government workers would have showed up at the ship on time rather than an hour and twenty minutes late! Recommendation We highly recommend this ship and this cruise. The ports of call are good, but the Panama Canal experience is a once in a life time experience. The staff of the Norwegian Sun were all the friendliest we have seen always saying hello no matter where you might see one and they are extremely helpful. We will definitely sail on NCL in the future.    

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Apr 15, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Hillary I've been on 5 cruises including this one. The sun ranks pretty high compared to the others. For me being 17 I know there would have not been much for me to do if it had not been spring break. There wasn't too many kids my age, but when I did finally meet some people I had a great time! I still miss it, and would definitely go back! The people were very friendly

and I thought the food was great. Overall I had an awesome time!

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Apr 14, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwsegian Sun Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Yury Menaker After reading so many negative reviews we were somewhat unsure about sailing on Sun... Though we always take reviews with a grain of salt. Prior to this cruise we sailed with Celebrity, RCCL, Holland and Carnival and had other lines to compare NCL to. First of all we liked our cruise a lot. Ship was very clean,we loved it's design and size.

It reminded us Century Class ships of Celebrity or Vision Class of RCCL. It's easy to navigate and never crowded, also there are many cozy places. Service was spotless from state room attendant as well as from waiters. It was our very first free style cruise and we didn't know what to expect.. From our previous cruises we loved personal attention from wait teams, but we didn't find lack of service just because we had different waiters every night. We loved being able to pick the location of our table!!! We rarely were getting tables by the window on previous cruises. Never had to wait for the table, although we usually went to the dining room between 6:30 and 7:30 to avoid crowds. Food. It's very subjective matter. We aren't "meat and potato" people, and Celebrity is still #1 for us, but we didn't find anything wrong with NCL food, except that we would loved to have escargots, some seafood and lobster on some nights. Dishes that we did eat were tasty and good,and NOT lukewarm as many wrote in their reviews. Loved lamb chops!!! Missed omelet's made to order for breakfast, but not a huge problem. Desserts were wonderful and we could order cappuccino and espresso in the dining room for free with our dinner. Entertainment was up to par with the other lines, and 3 production shows were interesting. (We usually only attend production shows)We were impressed with live music everywhere and band by the pool was doing good job too. Caribbean pool party was weaker than on Celebrity we thought. For people who like to stay fit fitness center is great with many treadmills , bikes and TV's. Also there is a nice full basketball court, which was very important for our 14 yo. Itinerary. Miami - Day at Sea - Cayo Levantado - Tortola - St.Thomas - Day at Sea - Great Stirrup Cay - Miami I much prefer Eastern Caribbean to West because of the hilly and beautiful islands. We absolutely loved Tortola and St.Thomas were we took private excursions : island drive and beach break on each island. Both islands have terrific places to take pictures and amazing beaches. We didn't care much for Cayo Levantado. We didn't get to Cayo because after slow tendering we didn't have time and wish to take another water taxi to Cayo. Place were we were tendered to was dirty, smelly, poor and filled with beggars. (I know, it's not nice thing to say, but beggars always are making me feel somewhat guilty) Great Stirrup Cay is a nice stop. Holland America's Half Moon Cay is still number one for us , but this is also nice private island. Very friendly staff, clean beach and water, many umbrellas and chairs. BBQ was tasty. Embarkation and debarkation were quick and efficient, tendering on the other hand was slow, with each person getting own number and waiting in line. Overall I would recommend this cruise to all people looking for nice , relaxing cruise with good service and decent food. It's not for cruisers looking for luxury atmosphere and cuisine (although we didn't attend specialty restaurants ,so we probably missed some great food)

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Apr 1, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Terry This was our third cruise together as a couple and my fourth cruise total. I am 42 and my partner is 34. I have been on the Carnival Inspiration, the Radisson Diamond, Royal Caribbean’s Grandure of the Sea and now NCL’s Sun. (I will never, if there is a god, take another Carnival cruise). I must admit, I had like some of the formality of the Radisson

and Royal Caribbean’s cruise. Dressing for dinner, etc. So when I kept hearing about NCL’s freestyle, I was very apprehensive. I honestly kept thinking it would be a lot of ill behaved young people, college students, etc. I was very surprised and very pleased. Departure - The only truly negative memory I have about the entire cruise was the departure. We always get a suite and enjoy the “perk” of having priority boarding. After we went through the line to show our travel documentation, we were sent to the area where you get your cabin key. They did not have ours for some reason. No big deal. Things happen. So we had to go have our cabin keys made. After that, they tried to seat us in the general boarding area. I tried to advise the gentleman that was directing people where to sit that we had a suite and I had been told by NCL that included priority boarding. He asked me which suite we had. I told him the Penthouse Suite, which is the least of all of NCL Sun’s full suites. He looked at me and told me that I didn’t have the Penthouse Suite, that the Penthouse cost 10,000.00 a night. I tried to explain to NCL’s own employee that it wasn’t a “penthouse” suite, that it was a Penthouse Suite.. He still didn’t get it, and actually inferred that I could not afford a Penthouse Suite. Every thing else I have to say about the cruise, staff and ship is wonderful. Our cabin steward was terrific as was our butler. Our Cabin Steward always had us fresh beach towel ready every day we were in port; we never had to wait in line for a towel. Our suite came with two butlers but we never met the second one. This was our first suite that had a Concierge and a Butler. We had read online that several cruisers recommended tipping the butler at the beginning and at the end of the cruise. ½ of what you budget for his/her tip at the beginning and ½ at the end. We had budgeted to tip both butlers, but, as I say, never met the second one. Our cabin was wonderful. It had a living room with a sofa and two chairs, a table, bar, mini fridge, beautiful wood paneling. French doors separated the bedroom that had closets in the bedroom. There was a dressing area between the bedroom and bathroom and it had closets as well. The bathroom had a huge vanity area, a jetted tub with a shower head and a separate shower. The toilet was in its own room. The balcony was enormous. It wrapped around the back of the ship to the side of the ship. It had at least four lounge chairs and four deck chairs and two tables and there was still plenty of room. Now I said I wasn’t going to say anything else negative, but I did just think of this. Nothing major, but still worth mentioning. Our cabin was on the back of the ship, on the deck right below the outdoor grill where they have the great burgers, etc. Every morning we would wake up to trash, banana peels, etc, that had been thrown down or blown down from the outdoor café. If I were to book on this ship again, I believe I might try for a cabin on the front of the ship. Ports of call were Samana, Dominican Republic. It is a new destination. The only tour attractive for us was to Cayo Levantado. This beach is fantastic. It was well worth whatever the cost was. The next port of call was Tortola. Very beautiful place. We took the Virgin Gorda Highlights Tour. This takes you to the Baths, an incredibly beautiful place. I have been to St. Thomas five or six times, actually staying there one time for 8 days. So at St. Thomas we actually took the tour that went over to St. Johns., I believe it is their beach escape. Probably the most beautiful beach I have ever been to. It at least tie’s in my book with Aruba’s beaches. And of course we went to NCL’s private island as the last port of call. I really enjoyed their private island. It was amazing to me how many people had to be on that little stretch of island and yet there were still plenty of chairs, picnic tables, etc. All of the excursions we took were well worth the money. The food. I will start this part by saying, I have always believed that people set themselves up for disappointment all the time when taking a cruise because they seem to expect terrific top of the line food every meal. We only ate in the main dinning room on one night. As I expected, the food was ok. The dessert, however, was probably one of the best I have ever eaten. We ate every night except that one in the restaurants where you pay a small premium to dine in. The food was great in those restaurants, and the service was wonderful. True, I have only been on five cruises. All the way from bottom of the line (Carnival) to top of the line (Radisson). I have to tell you, Radisson had the worst food of them all. Don’t buy into the commercials you see on television where they show the waiters jumping through the air serving these wonderful, once in a life time, meals. It just hasn’t been my experience that it is ever that way. The casino.. We were in the casino almost every moment it was opened. We did actually hit several jackpots, but, as fun as the casino was, I can tell you this. What we paid for a suite for two was a lot less than what we spent in the casino. Probably 1/3 to ¼ what we spent in the casino. The casino’s staff was very friendly and always there when I needed them for something. We were able to draw up to $2,000.00 a day from the cashier using our room key. I think anyone can do that. It sure is better than having to travel with a lot of cash. If I had one concern about the casino, it was that there was this one group of four elderly people that would hang around someone on a slot machine and wait for them to put in a ton of money, then as soon as that person got up, they would get on the machine to see if they could win what had just been put in the machine. Now there is nothing that can be done about people coming up after you and playing your machine. However I wish the casino staff had kept them from sitting around you like vultures and not playing a slot machine while sitting there. Funny enough, that is what every one in the casino started calling them.. The Vulture gang. Of the cruises I have been on, I have to say that overall , this was the best. Loved the staff, loved the ship, and loved our cabin. Would take this exact same cruise again with no hesitation.        

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Apr 1, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Alyce First of all, I agree with everything written about the ship from the comments of passengers on the Mar 06 cruises - Long lines, poor meal choices, not enough entertainment and very expensive drinks. I was dehydrated most of the time even with my $42 coke card. With that said, let me tell you that we (and a lot of other passengers) got food poisoning

at the Garden Cafe' on April 4th, so we also had to endure long lines at the medical center, being quarantined to our room for 24 hrs and missed the US Virgin Islands all together. The ship's medical staff refused to admit that it was food poisoning for obvious reasons. We were scared to even eat what little food choices we had left for the rest of the cruise... I will say that we did see some really pretty places and had better luck at the Great Stirrup Cay (except the raw hamburgers) because we were the first ones off the ship. We did purchase shore excursions at every stop, so we weren't bored and didn't have to worry about taxi fees, etc. I purchased them in advance online, so I didn't have to stand in long lines for that. We also enjoyed the art auction and spent a lot of money at those - just what they wanted. Needless to say, I will not be a member of the Latitudes club...

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Mar 18, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Shirley Weiss I have just returned from the NCL’s Norwegian Sun. I am a travel agent and have been on more than forty cruises. If you had never sailed before, I am sure you would think the Norwegian Sun was a very good ship. We did have a good time, but comparing this ship to others, in the same class, I can find much wrong. First Day: Checking in at the

pier went very smoothly and did not take very long. When we got on the ship, no one welcomed us or guided us to our cabin. The crew were standing around, but no one spoke to us. Normally the steward greets you when you arrive in your room, introduces himself and tells you were everything is, explains the safe, etc. On the Sun, the room steward comes after 6:00pm. When we opened the door to the cabin, cigarette smoke hit us in the face. We went to the pursers’ office at 12:15pm and were told they would try to take care of the smell. They had no other rooms to give us. The smell was so strong that I wouldn’t put anything in the room. Housekeeping did try to take the smell out and it was better, but every time you entered the room it “stunk.” AT 10:00 PM, the housekeeping manager came in and sprinkled some more powder on the rug. Even though, I feel we missed the entire first day because we couldn’t enter our room to change into swimming suits or even to rest, we were not offered any compensation, such as dinner in a specialty restaurant or even a drink on the house. We were told one couple on another floor slept in the hall all night, because their room smelled so awful. All of the luggage was delivered to the end of the hall. You had to pick up your own luggage and take it to your room. We had three full-grown people in our cabin. Instead of a bunk bed, we had a couch that opened up. It was a foot too short, so your feet just hung over the bed. There was no mattress, just a hard couch. The housekeeping manager brought us a foam pad to put on top of it. Of course, the blankets and sheets could not be tucked in, because it was just the end of the short couch! Not too comfortable. There is about twenty inches of hanging closet space. The drawers are adequate. Usually the nightstand has drawers, but these tables did not. That is always nice to just put small things in instead of having them lay around. At the shore excursion desk, there was a 45-minute wait to be helped. There were just two people working. I made our shore excursion reservations with the cruise line in advance. I had asked if I had to accompany my two teenagers on a dolphin swim that cost $165 per person. They said yes. However on the ship I was told you could get an escort pass for $35. I was not offered this on the phone. If you purchased your tickets at the place instead of on the ship, the price was $85. This did not include transportation, which was about ten minutes away. Food and Dining Areas: Open seating was very nice because you could go in at any time. It is very impersonable when you compare it to having the wame waiter and staff every evening. The food was tasty, however, the selections were sparse. In the elevator and at the pool, I could over hear people saying they thought there were not enough selections. In the dining room, on the menu were three choices for salad dressing. One choice was low fat dressing; the bottle of Kraft’s Dressing was brought to the table. Shrimp cocktail was the baby salad shrimp. The lobster tails were not removed from the shell by the waiter. This is certainly not important, but I have never been on a ship that the maitre’ d or waiter did not offer to do this for you at your table. The maitre’ d never stopped at our table, or said hello during the entire week. At the buffet, there was a long line at each end to get your plate. Food was not in stations. If you wanted an omelet you had to go to deck twelve to get it and come back to deck eleven for the rest of the buffet. They did offer a few food items upstairs, but not very many. At the regular buffet, they only had scrambled eggs and squares of another egg type. Coke cards cost $42.75 per person for unlimited sodas. When I asked how much each drink cost, they said $1.75. This is the price of canned soda not the glasses that they served. Those were $1.25. For the seven-day cruise this figures out to 35 drinks per person to break even. They did not have any kind of diet decaf sodas. Lemonade is not a free choice anywhere on the ship. Entertainment: The entertainment was very good. They had three production shows that were handled by an outside company. The comedian was very good. Every evening at 8:30pm they had a game show in the Dazzle Lounge. They were always entertaining. On this seven-day cruise, there were just two “happenings” around the pool beside the band. One was Hairy Chest Contest and Men’s Best Legs. Most of the daytime activities were inside in the form of lectures, etc. When we returned from the private island, the pool had run out of towels. The band or music doesn’t stop or even lower their volume when announcements are made from the bridge. Ports of Call: Great Stirrup Cay was our first port of call. The boat house to rent sail boats and other boats was not open. Rafts were available for rent. The beach was very crowded. The next stop was Tortola. We did not arrive until 12:30pm. It was an okay island. Not too much to do on your own. When we arrived in St. Thomas we were on the other side of the island. There is nothing there within walking distance. Even though the map that was passed out on the ship showed shops, these had not been built yet. There is a lot to see on the island. Cab fare to downtown is $4 per person each way. Next and last stop was Samana. There is nothing to see here. Most people retuned to the ship within an hour of getting off. By 1:00pm, all chairs around the pool were taken. The ship was there until 5:00pm. Miscellaneous: Pictures taken by the ship cost $14.95. You can have a second sheet with the same picture except it is two wallet size and a little larger picture for this price. If you want just the one picture it is still $14.95 or two different pictures cost $29.90. Portraits are $29.95 for one. When the crew had a drill, which was about 10:00am on a sea day, they announced in advance about the signal, but they did not mention that the elevators would be turned off for about fifteen minutes. Quite a few people could not walk the stairs and had to wait to. It would have been nice had they warned about this also so they could have situated themselves. They passed out notices about immigration in St. Thomas. Ours said to report at 9:15am. They said they were staggering the times so there would not be a back-up. At 8:45am the announced all over the ship including your rooms that all US citizens proceed immediately. When we got there at 9:00am, the line was three public rooms long. Arrival in Tortola was 12:30pm. As you left the ship you had to fill out forms to get towels to take off the ship. The line was backed up to the sixth floor from the 3rd floor. On all other ships I have been on they bring towels to your room or you just pick them up as you get off. News excerpts from papers around the world are normally available near the pursers’ desk free of charge. On the Sun, you have to subscribe to get a newspaper for $3.95 for the week. As I stated in the first paragraph, I am sure people loved their cruise. We had a very good time. All of these little things that I mentioned are not that important. But, for the same money, everything I mentioned is so much better on all of the ships that I have cruised on prior to this.

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Mar 18, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

NCL - Norwegain Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Paul Guse CRUISERS BEWARE!! Cutbacks are happening even in the cruise industry. This cruise was less than glamorous. I have never been on such a low quality cruise in my life. We cruised Norwegian as recent as last year and at that time it was still nice. This year it’s like a different company has taken over. Here is how our cruise went: We boarded the

ship, and no welcome aboard drink. No biggie, we were sure this was just a small change. So we went for lunch in the only dining available, the buffet. How about this? No trays. Here you are in a cafeteria style line. You have a salad, a plate of food and a drink, and no tray. This is absolutely ridiculous. They said they are trying to cut back on some small things. What is a person supposed to do? Balance it on their head? OK, we moved on. We decided to try the free style dining. Well this is where it went down hill. The tables were set with minimal silverware, no flower, no candle. Well no biggie the food will still be great. Surprise again. The menus are horrible. Almost every evening was a list of unappealing meals. There are a few appetizers, one soup and one salad choice. Your choice is do you want it or not? Also, there is no more dessert tray to choose from. This is the cruise company’s way of getting you to spend more money and eat at the special dining which has a fee per person. They feed you bad food and try to squeeze more money from you by forcing you to pay. We were so hungry that we thought we would try the specialty dining. Well guess again! You couldn’t get a reservation. So now we had to eat really bad food. Even the buffet had strange eastern food most of the time. The desserts looked great but no taste, only high calories. Oh yea and how about this, no more fruit punch or lemonade, only ice tea. But if you wish, you can buy coke for the week at $42.00 a person. (crazy, isn’t it?) Alcohol is at a very high price too. You can get a drink for $4.50, but it’s served in a juice glass. The decent size ones are $8.50. Coke is $1.75 a can and tasted like water. It looked like a coke can but…. No taste at all. The least they could do is post the menus for the week so you could decide if you want to try making reservations elsewhere. One of our stops was a private island. Here they even botched a picnic lunch. Although the dogs and hamburgers were OK, they were served on stale rolls. And the fruit salad must have been made up well in advance, it was extremely slimy. The breakfast wasn’t bad. Most of the food was traditional and eat up in the morning, there wasn’t much to look forward to after that.

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Feb 25, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line NCL Sun Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Jackie INTRO After reading several negative reviews, my husband and I were pleasantly surprised that almost nothing of what was said was true. This means that if you booked a cruise on the Sun, you should rest assured that you will have a good time as long as you make it your goal to have a good time!! EMBARKATION First, let me start with embarkation. As a past cruiser

(the Sun was my third cruise), this was the absolute smoothest embarkation I've experienced. Literally, I was in my stateroom within 30 minutes, if not less!!! This includes waiting on line (never outside in the blazing heat as had happened to us on Carnival), clearing with U.S. Customs, registering with the ship, taking the first picture, buying the soda card, etc. Also, from the beginning, you see how meticulous NCL is with cleanliness as they ask you immediately upon boarding to sanitize your hands with a little gadget they provide that you will find throughout the ship, especially at their restaurants and buffet areas. ACTIVITIES The activities on the Sun weren't bad, but they could've been better. With my past experiences, I found Carnival's activities to be much more fun and wilder. If you want relaxing activities, you will definitely find them here. If you want a crazy Cruise Staff and nonstop party-atmosphere activities, you won't be very satisfied here. Despite this, I have to say that my husband and I had a good time anyway; we were never bored with any of their activities and there was always something to do. The best ones include daily trivia (my personal favorite), Jeopardy, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Not So Newlywed Game, etc. Also, I looove karaoke and you will find plenty of karaoke time on the Sun and a great variety of songs. The disco was not the best, so if you are young like we are and are looking to go "clubbing," don't count on Dazzles to be the place. You're better off going to a late show, one of the late buffets or snacks, and the casino. Oh, right, the shows were good. The Cirque Peter Pan was awesome as were the comedic jugglers. My favorite show was comedian Joe Yanetti's. Oh my gosh, he was awesome, sooo funny, so don't miss ANY of his shows!! They are all different yet the same type of sarcastic humor that I love!! But obviously, don't sit near him as he will pick on you! The singers were great, too. The group of Filipino singers were THE BOMB (I loved all their ABBA covers), and the Motown singers were very good, too. Looks like Norwegian definitely splurges on their talent as did Carnival, so that's a good thing. Also, they showed daily movies in Dazzles, so if you want to catch a movie, it's a good option. But don't expect popcorn. Also, they are recent DVD releases, nothing that is in theatres at the moment. Finally, you can catch any of these movies in your stateroom, so if you don't go, you are not missing much. CASINO Ok, my favorite thing about the casino was their late-nite snacks!!! Yummy!! I loved the sandwiches, wings, etc. Carnival and Costa definitely didn't have this!! About the casino, I know nothing about table games; I stick to slot machines. I love the quarter slots, so I won a few dollars from them. The machines don't take quarters--you have to change your money to the ship's tokens. BINGO Too expensive for me!! Never played except for the one or two free games they give you. This was way more expensive than Carnival and Costa. And the payouts were about the same (a couple of hundred dollars). To me, it was not worth it, but if that suits your fancy, go for it. I noticed they have this little Bingo machine that does all the playing for you when you purchase lots of cards, so that was cool. FOOD & DRINKS The food was as good as buffet-type, mass-produced cafeteria food gets. It was good, so I never understand people who complain about buffet food unless it's cold or something. The pizza was a little cold sometimes, about lukewarm. That could've been better. But the rest (including desserts--especially the cheesecakes and chocolate-covered strawberries!!) was great. The a la carte menu at the free restaurants was awesome. Also, what a great surprise the Cooking Light menus were!! Sometimes their offerings were better than the regular food they offered (ex.: Chicken parm, salmon with peach-apricot glaze, etc.). Oh, if you like Indian food, don't get your hopes up on their Indian menu as some friends who tried it said it was not very good. As always, the service at their sit-down restaurants was good as is on most ships. We didn't try any of the restaurants that require reservations and cover charges. Didn't see the point. But these same friends I made on the trip said the food there was good, too, if I remember correctly. Finally, chocolate buffet on the last night was not as I thought it would be. That said, you will find some choices that are good. Oh, don't forget to try the menu at the Tapas restaurant (forgot the name)--it's free. You can also find different free food at the sports bar. Fish and chips is good!!! DRINKS ARE TOOOOO EXPENSIVE!! Their specials were $9 cocktails!! That's more expensive than NYC!!! STATEROOM We got lucky. We got upgraded to the best inside stateroom. It was big for a stateroom and very comfy!! King-sized bed and all. Bathroom was comfy. The only thing I didn't like was that the shower water's temperature changed a lot while you were showering! That was uncomfortable but you can't have it all. Also, the cleaning lady was very good and nice, but she always seemed to clean when we were there (during our mid-afternoon breaks). So if you don't want them to interrupt a quick nap or shower, make sure you put the Do Not Disturb sign during those hours or else they'll come knocking every day!! STORES/SHOPPING What I liked about NCL was that they didn't push/persuade you into shopping or buying their services onboard like other cruise lines do. They give you their fliers daily and that's it. No constant announcements over the PA system on their sales, etc. No one pushes you daily to go to their shops in port and buy their diamonds, no one is pulling you into their spa to get an overpriced manicure. CONCLUSION Overall, this cruise was a good experience for my husband and me. We had more fun on our Carnival cruise, but this cruise was very relaxing and the ship had many more amenities and comforts!!! Keep in mind that this cruise was more expensive for us, as well, so we limited ourselves in some things due to our budget!! But we still had a blast!! It's what you make of it that comes of it, remember that!!!! Any questions, you can e-mail me at jackym78@hotmail.com. Bon voyage...  

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Feb 18, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line NCL Sun Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Maxine  I went on this cruise with my husband, my three siblings and their spouses. We ranged from new cruisers to experienced, and this review includes our collective experiences. This was my first cruise with NCL, having previously cruised with Carnival and Holland America. We chose this cruise because we were looking for an Eastern Caribbean itinerary for a specific

week and at a reasonable price. While this cruise left some things to be desired, even a so-so cruise in a lovely part of the world beats the best week at work in the Midwest/West in February. Embarkation from the Port of Miami took about 45 minutes. We had all ‘pre-registered’ online beforehand and printed the registrations as instructed, but nobody asked for them. There seemed to be a general lack of organization, dissemination of information, and order in various processes on this ship, from embarkation to tendering ashore to asking basic questions about services available on the ship. Examples are included in their respective areas below. Accommodations: Staterooms were more than adequate and laid out nicely. We had a ‘guaranteed’ inside cabin (0101) – extremely happy with the upgrade, and others in our group had Deck 10 balconies and a Deck 6 window. You may want to avoid the Deck 6 window cabins that look out onto the jogging track. The ship was in good condition and pretty consistently kept clean. Public restrooms seemed few, hard to find, and were quite cramped (it was difficult to wash your hands when people were trying to enter/exit the stalls). Quite often, the paper towel dispensers were empty. These are small things, but they add up and were more pronounced on this ship. General décor was a little Vegas-like, and plastic trees and flowers adorned the dining rooms and lounges. Again, small things and certainly not a cruise-wrecker, but compared to a previous cruise on Holland the differences are quite marked. The food in the buffets was good and plentiful, with average variety compared to other cruises. On the first day, a huge line formed at the Garden Buffet entrance closest to the pool. After waiting a while, someone mentioned that there were other short lines in the back of the ship. It would have been nice if someone from the ship had directed the people proactively and avoided the backlog altogether. Food in the formal dining room ranged from very good to fair, with most selections in the ‘good’ range. Service was quite good all nights except one. Desserts were the only consistent disappointment as expressed by most members in our group. Drinks were exorbitantly priced, more than I’d experienced on either Holland or Carnival, even considering inflation. My brother-in-law took out a second mortgage to purchase an unlimited soda card. We are not teetotalers and we certainly paid the price on this cruise. Holland allowed us to bring wine on the ship and consume it in our room, and NCL forbids any alcohol of any kind brought in at any time. Wine selection is limited in the lounges, but decent in the dining room. However, two of the dining room’s reasonably priced decent wines were out of stock when we tried to order them. Note to NCL sommelier – there are other white wines besides Chardonnay. Ports of Call: Cayo Levantado, Dominican Republic: Four of us did the Whale Watching excursion, and four of us did the scuba diving excursion. Disappointment was expressed by all. All persons who had booked excursions for this day met in one of the formal dining rooms and it was quite packed. The process of calling out tours and trying to get the people out in an orderly fashion lacked efficiency and fostered frustration for the guests. We paid $84 and were actually on the whale watching boat for less than 2 hours. We returned early because many of the guests were sick, due to the slightly rough sea and small ship. We didn’t see as many whales as I’d anticipated, and I admit I had unrealistic expectations ~ something more like a ‘wild Sea World’ show. The scuba divers in our group said both the lack of fish and variety were disappointing. Other guests who went into town also expressed disappointment with this port of call (had to tender to shore and the town was very poor). Tortola: By far, one of my favorite destinations in this part of the Caribbean. We had been there last March on another cruise, and a couple in our party had spent time considerable there on a dive trip. We hired a cab driver with a van to accommodate all eight of us. ($150) We spent about five hours driving around and hit the following local digs: Brewer’s Bay for great snorkeling and an uncrowded smaller beach, Rudy’s Roadside Bar for nice views and a thirst quencher, and a restaurant on the top of the island, called “Top of the World” or something similar, for a nice lunch and more breathtaking views. Truly a day in paradise. St. Thomas: We had to tender to shore, which was a time-consuming and patience-building affair. First, a member of our party waited in line for 45 minutes to obtain an earlier tender ticket, and then we waited another hour for our tender ticket number to be called. It just seems there should be an easier way. We shopped a couple hours and my sister-in-law purchased a beautiful diamond at a jeweler across the street from the tenders called ‘Gems and Gold Corner’. A smaller shop not on the ‘recommended’ NCL list, but a very nice selection and excellent service. After shopping, we took the “Champagne Catamaran Snorkel” excursion. By far, the best value excursion I’ve ever booked through any cruise. We sailed to St. John and the Adventure catamaran crew was excellent, as was the snorkeling and beach we visited. We enjoyed a great fruit/cheese/snack treat after the snorkeling as well as memorable rum punches. All this for just $64! Again, another slice of paradise. Grand Stirrup Cay, Bahamas: This is NCL’s private island and it is very pretty. The promised barbeque on the island was canceled and we didn’t have much time there, as the tender process again was very time-consuming. A front blew in late in the afternoon and there was a significant delay and some difficulty in getting the last tenders back to ship. I found the snorkeling to be less than advertised. General Service: I visited the “Guest Services” desk one day to inquire about the duration of one of our excursions that had been booked online 7 weeks previously. The person at the desk didn’t know the duration, didn’t know where to find the information, and replied “I must have known the length of the excursion when I booked it.” Yes, this was true but somehow I had forgotten it and that is why I found it necessary to ask her. The next day, I found an excursion price list with all the durations on a form near the counter where I had spoken with her. I needed a wake up call and dialed ‘9’ for “wake up call’ as indicated on my stateroom phone. Nothing happened, so I called ‘Room Service’ as there was no speed dial indicated for guest services/front desk/general information. I was told to check with my cabin steward for instructions, so I asked for his phone number. I was told I should ‘just go out in the hall and look for him.’ He came and said the instructions were ‘in the book’ and he found them for me. Turns out they have changed the speed dial for wake up calls from ‘9’ to ‘99’ and didn’t update the directory on the phones. Again, in the scheme of things this is very minor, but demonstrates a lack of attention to detail and good service. Our cabin steward and stewardess did a fine job of keeping our cabin clean. We were fortunate to meet Alexandra from Romania on the first day of the cruise and she took excellent care of us throughout the cruise in the various clubs. We tended to frequent the clubs she was working at as she provided great care and was simply a breath of fresh air. Entertainment: The stand-up comedian, Joe ?, was very good and we thoroughly enjoyed his humor. The Motown group was also impressive and these two stood head and shoulders above all other entertainment on board. The casino was one of the best as far as payouts that I had seen on a cruise ship. Overall, the cruise was probably average to above average, but I doubt that I would book on NCL again. I hope that this review didn’t seem overly negative, but for an extra couple hundred dollars, so many little things can be so much better.  

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Feb 18, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line NCL Sun Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Jeff Kuske I don't know about you, but I've finally found a cruise line that caters to my tastes. We never waited in line! From check in to check out, they got it figured out so you never wait. It was the best vacation we ever had. Totally relaxed. Much better than previous, traditional cruises. The staff was so friendly from arrival to departure (yes, better than Royal

Caribbean!). Norwegian clearly focuses on ensuring customer satisfaction and weeds out the bad apples. Most of the staff was European, not Caribbean, which seems to make a difference. Traditional cruises are boring in my opinion. They tell you when to eat, where to eat, whom to eat with, and what to wear! (sorry I don't have a tuxedo...aren't we on vacation?.) The level of service you receive depends on which waiter they assign to you for your entire trip. Miss a meal and they aren't very happy. The waiters are clearly counting on your tips and a missed meal is a deduction from their paycheck. We missed two meals on our last cruise and they moved us from a window seat to the noisy dish station with a busboy for a waiter. Bottom line: Limited choices, longer lines, rigid schedules. Same old. Same old. You feel like you are on a turnstyle. Expect to pay $15-$30 per day in tips at the end of your cruise. FreeStyle = Choices. Eat where you want, when you want, with whom you want. Wear whatever you want (*exept at dinner, you are required to wear slacks which is good, because I can't stand to see those overweight bozos with their fannypacks and booty shorts walking into the dining room with three loud kids, dragging sand and still wearing their pool floats with no respect for others). No waiting. We never ate at the same place twice. From Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French, we never ran out of dinner options. We ate at the buffet for lunch and breakfast. I like being able to sit out on the deck or take breakfast back to my room. Why people eat breakfast in the dining room is beyond me. Some people like to be served I guess. Tips are a very reasonable $10 per day for the entire staff, compared to other cruises (Royal Carribean was outrageous) We still received 4 to 5 star treatment at every turn. Clearly Norwegian understands people want flexibility in their vacation and they give it to you with FreeStyle. As far as our destinations, we enjoyed our cruise so much it didn't matter. But we chose the Easter Caribbean itinerary because we were tired of the western Caribbean, ie, Jamaica (scary people who look like they want to kill you), Grand Cayman (pricey, overcrowded), and Cozumel (crowded) are so overrated, over traveled. We loved whale watching in Samana, Dominican Republic, Tortola is so beautiful (the park hike was well worth it), St Thomas was great if you like shopping for diamonds (be careful, while there are deals to be found, the markup is unreal. I watched one customer talk a store down 50% on a $4000 ring) Jewelry has to be biggest scam in the world. The moment she walked out the door, that ring was probably worth less than $500 street value. Ok, sorry ladies, I know you love Jewelry. Hopefully my wife doesn't read this! Ok what was I writing about again... Entertainment on the cruise was ho hum. I think they paid more attention to dining options and freestyle than other areas of the ship. But that's okay. We didn't need to be entertained. We met fun people from all over the world. The disco was cool. Karaoke felt like American Idol. The t.v. options were like a bunch of old Ted Turner classics, BBC or CNN reporting bad news from Iraq so we turned it off. Although there was a channel that showed our ship's progress with some smooth jazz which we liked. There's a good library on the ship. I finished a book! Wireless internet is available in some areas if you want to check your work email..but why are you on vacation again? The gym was awesome. My wife signed up for yoga, pillatae (sp?), aerobics, boot camp, etc. and we did a lot of walking around the deck. We always used the stairs. Certain people are programmed to take the elevator at every turn. No wonder they gain 10 lbs on the cruise. I suppose these are the same people who wait fifteen minutes for the closest parking spot. No doubt Americans were the most stressed out and out of shape people on the cruise compared to the Europeans and Canadiens. We actually lost weight. My wife signed me up for a massage. I probably wouldn't have done it if she hadn't. Boy was I glad she did. That was the best massage I ever had (ok forget about the one in Thailand). That cute little phillipino girl (or guy. not sure they all have the same haircut) was surprisingly strong. I enjoyed every minute of my massage, from the moment she climbed on my back and went to work, the the finger massage at the end (don't get any wrong ideas) There wasn't an ounce of tension in my body for three wonderful days. The last day at the private island was uneventful. The island hasn't changed since I was there fifteen years ago. There's no shade and you are confined to a real small beach area. The island shuttles were slow and subject to frequent break downs. They never had the beach barbecue we were promised due to some delay in arrival. This was the most disappointing phase of our trip, but we got over it soon enough. The only complaints we ever heard on the ship were from a group from Texas who had become agitated after a five minute wait for their tables to be readied. I could tell these were the kind of rude people you could never please in the first place. Good thing we were not on a traditional cruise or we might have been seated with them. I can't say enough about FreeStyle cruising. While Traditional cruise lines may cater well to families and seniors, younger couples and single travelers may not want to be held to a rigid schedule. I realize this was more of a personal perspective and many people will disagree, but I suspect there are others who think like us. Hopefully other cruise lines will pick up on FreeStyle. Until then, we are staying with Norwegian FreeStyle.

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Feb 4, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line NCL Sun Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean David Solseth My wife and I have been on 3 cruises. The first 2 were with Holland America. We enjoyed both of these cruises very much. Our last cruise, with Norwegian, was a big mistake. The staff was so busy continuously pushing expensive drinks that they couldn't find the time to clean tables filled with dirty dishes, and over flowing ashtrays. Our room was satisfactory

and was kept clean. We had 3 ports of call. St Thomas was the only one that we really enjoyed. The other 2 were big disappointments. Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, had very poor shopping and was run down and dirty. A raw sewage smell permitted the town. The locals seemed unfriendly. Samana, in the Dominican Republic, had no shopping to speak of. The waters of its harbor had garbage floating in it. Samana was very dirty and in serious disrepair. Tortola, and Samana, are 2 ports that we will not re-visit. The food on the Sun was mediocre at best. It was usually served luke warm, and tasteless. One needed to add lots of salt, and pepper, to give the food any taste. We found the entertainment to be less than professional. Although they were usually enjoyable, the productions were lacking. We chose the Sun because of its price. This is not a mistake that we will make on future sailings. If this had been our 1st cruise, we probably would never have cruised again. We plan on staying with Holland America for future sailings, where we know that great food, entertainment, and service will greet us as we come aboard.  

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Jan 8, 2006

Western Caribbean

NCL, Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Cruise Review Western Caribbean Larry This was our 7th cruise having previously sailed Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Celebrity, and Princess. This was our 2nd cruise aboard an NCL ship. Obviously, we like to cruise. Having said that, we can point out negatives on every cruise and something about every ship that we thought did not meet our expectations. The same will hold true about this review.

Let me say that I would sail this ship and this line again without hesitation. The NCL Sun is a clean well presented ship with a conscientious officer staff and crew. The ship is typical of most of the newer NCL ships offering multiple dining venues and freestyle seating. The free style dining choices offer great flexibility in dining options and has enhanced our cruising experience ten fold. After two cruises in the last year aboard NCL, do not believe that the service is lacking due to “we don’t have the same waiter every night… so they do not care about service”. The service has been excellent at all times on both ships. This format gives you the choice of dining alone or to dine with new friends as you choose. One of the best features is that there is no rush back to the ship on port days to “meet the ship’s dining schedule”. The food preparation, quality and presentation have met our expectations on a consistent basis. On our 1st NCL cruise, we opted to eat at a few of the specialty restaurants requiring a cover charge, however on this cruise we did not eat at any of these choices. We enjoyed all of the food and service on both ships. The NCL offers a buffet in the Garden Café. (I believe it is open basically 24 hrs. daily) It is situated to allow dining both inside and in the Great Outdoor Café (situated in the most aft position to allow a great view from the rear of the ship. This area offers both covered and uncovered dining options. The Four Seasons and the Seven Seas offer typical cruise ship dining experiences. The ship is designed with a promenade deck which allows a nice 360 degree walk with a great view of the ocean. The lack of any deck chairs on this deck was disappointing. We always look forwarding to enjoying a few quiet relaxing moments sunning on this deck while sipping a beverage of choice, listening to our favorites on our MP3’s and watching the world sail past. This is the 1st ship that we have not been offered this opportunity and it was disappointing. The pool area is very adequate with ample areas for sunning both near the pool and on other decks in close proximity (without all the noise). Our cruise was sold out and we never had an issue in locating a good location on the deck, any towel issues and/or drink service. The deck band was excellent and routinely received applause from the patrons. Lots of sun, drinks and music created a great cruising atmosphere which we enjoyed. We do not drink a lot but I might say….. It seems as if drink prices continue to rise. NCL apparently does not offer discounted “Beer Buckets”…so beer routinely cost in excess of $5 per beer. I think this is too high but I doubt that NCL charges any more than any other cruise line. Having said that… I can attest the beer was cold and I drank my fair share of $5 beers before the week had passed. I had a few frozen thingee’s too!!! We opted for an inside room (#9331 Cat ii). After a good look at the ship’s various deck plans and stateroom options…. we chose this room based upon its location and size…. 1st of all this was the largest room we have seen on a cruise ship… all lines, all options, inside, outside or balcony. It was very large. I still believe a balcony room is the best choice…. but for this cruise we did not see the need for a balcony and we were not disappointed. ( If reviewing this ship or any other ship for Alaska…a balcony is a must). The second factor was the room’s accessibility to the pool, buffet, dining rooms and theater… all of which were excellent. Now the two negatives about our cruise…… 1st …..The ship had adequate lounge areas for entertainment…. While personal taste will dictate whether the entertainment was good or bad… the ship just did not offer a variety of entertainment options…..if you like Glenn Miller or Name That Tune from 60’s and 70’s show tunes or Irish Folk Songs… then I suppose that you would have liked the entertainment… I have a musical background and I can say the performers were good….. just not to my liking… I think there should have been more variety. One group… Twice as Nice…. offered a Motown musical review and they performed on a very professional basis. Their performances were well attended and always were well received. 2nd…. I’ll be kind in my choice of words fro our room steward… Let’s just say…. The typical 16 year old would do a better job of keeping the up room than this guy did. I am not certain exactly when he worked… not often is that answer and on his schedule… not ours……..I have had a less than stellar room steward before… but this guy lowered the mark. I do not think this is an overall NCL problem… maybe the guy was having a bad week. The Jean Ryan Dance Company is awesome and I would rate their performances as good as I have seen on any ship. The Sun was leaving this western Caribbean itinerary after our cruise. The ports of Cozumel, Belize and Roatan were all excellent. Cozumel has recovered very nicely after Wilma and one should not worry about their stop here. Living on the Gulf Coast I have frequented Cozumel and the Mayan Rivera many, many times over the last 20 years. The downtown area has recovered nicely (85-90%) and all of my favorite restaurants were open and fully functional. (LaChoza, Palmera’s, El Capi Navigante, Café Dennis and of course Carlos and Charlies was open). In Belize, we opted not to stay in Belize City (where you are tendered in) but instead immediately took a tour boat to snorkel, drink and eat in Ambergris Caye. WOW!!! My new favorite spot in the Caribbean. Talk about charisma…..If you like a beautiful view of the ocean with gentle breezes, the ambiance of a good beach restaurant (Fido’s offers cold drinks and good food), gentle breezes and small fishing and dive boats moving about…. Then this is the spot for you. The “city” of San Pedro offers some typical tourist shopping which is limited to “T-Shirts and Trinkets”. No cars allowed here!!!!.. so watch out for the golf carts… Overall…. This is a great place with great charm and without the congestion of large commercial development. In Roatan… we opted for a quiet day at CoCo View Resort….This resort is not for every one. It is a dive resort. We are not divers… but for $25pp we could snorkel the reef (awesome reef) and enjoyed their lunch buffet. We opted for this resort because we knew the divers would leave and we basically had the resort for ourselves. This turned out to be a great day to sun and snorkel without the crowds that typically head to West Bay or West Beach. It worked really well for us.. but if you are looking for a nice sandy beach… then head with the masses to West Bay. Embarkation had some issues but they were beyond NCL’s control. We were delayed getting on the ship by a Custom’s issue….. but once the green light was given to board.. it went really well…. “Just one of those things”…. Disembarkation was flawless and was the best that I have ever experienced. In closing…..Overall the trip was excellent….. I was a little disappointed in the ship’s entertainment choices but I love the freestyle cruising…. Generally…. Service was excellent. The surprising thing to me after two cruises with NCL….I really believe NCL service beats every other cruise line. I really like to eat when/where we want and dress how we want. The staff is very attentive and charming….It was a very relaxing cruise and I would sail NCL again without hesitation.

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Jan 8, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

The Sun is a beautiful ship that was being continuously maintained during the cruise. Our cabin was efficiently laid out and very pleasant. The balcony is a must – it enhanced the cruise experience during fair conditions and rough. It also offered a place for us to dry wet clothing, which was helpful, and made the cabin feel larger. The cruise itinerary and line were somewhat problematic from the onset. We originally booked this cruise

– our first - to sail out of New Orleans because we wanted the home port to be a featured port of call. Of course, poor New Orleans got trashed, and the home port was moved to Houston – not a city I have ever looked forward to visiting. Then another hurricane trashed Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, and we were told that those ports would also be off the itinerary. This left us with only two of the original five places we wanted to see. We asked to change our cruise date, but Norwegian was inflexible on this. Granted, it isn’t there fault a hurricane trashed the city, but it wasn’t ours, either and we were very disappointed. Cozumel was eventually left on the itinerary (which changed four times from initial booking to the date of the cruise). We were given a total of $100 shipboard credit in compensation and another $24 reimbursement while on the cruise for port fees that were not incurred. Lesson 1 for first time cruisers: the cruise line completely controls the itinerary, and can change it for any reason with no recourse to the traveler. However, we made lemonade from lemons by booking our flight into San Antonio instead and driving to Houston on the day of the cruise. It was well worth doing, as San Antonio was wonderful. We turned in our rental car at the airport and checked in for the shuttle bus to the ship. There was some problem, however, and we ended up spending over 2 hours in line for the bus to arrive. After a 45-minute bus ride we arrived at the dock, where we were offered another chance to get to know our fellow passengers by waiting in line for 30+ minutes to be checked in. Once we passed through security, it was another 30 minutes before we were actually onboard. Our cabin exceeded our expectations. It was small but efficiently laid out and we had no problems stowing all our stuff. Granted, we are very light packers (one bag each, carry-on), but we had plenty of room. The bed was so-so for comfort, but the nature of the accommodations demand flexibility and it was sufficient if not cushy. Our luggage arrived promptly at our cabin, but my luggage cart (which I’d just purchased in San Antonio) was missing. I brought this to the attention of the gentleman handling our luggage, and he assured us that it would be found and returned. We went to the top deck to join the sail-away party. There was a good barbecue offered, the reggae/party music band we good, and our first experience aboard a large, moving ship was very positive. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening’s activities. We explored the ship, which was clean and attractive, and enjoyed our initial contact with the staff, who were all very personable and outgoing. Our housekeeper – Mary Grace - was terrific and went out of her way to greet us by name throughout the cruise. The next day was at sea, and the sea was quite rough (12’ swells and high winds). We signed up for shore excursions – which we hadn’t done prior to boarding due to the fluid itinerary – and had no difficulty getting what we wanted. There was a two-for-one offer at one of the specialty restaurants, so we made reservations for a steak dinner that night. Overall, we found food on the ship to be average, but we are decent cooks and are surrounded by excellent restaurants at home so could be more critical than other people. The morning buffets were sufficient and usually offered smoked salmon, fruit, and the usual breakfast fare. There were waffle and omelet stations, both of which were fine. The hamburger at the lunch buffet was inedible –hamburgers should never be crunchy. One example of excellent food was the sushi bar. This is a specialty restaurant that charged $2 per piece. A piece, in this case, is a whole roll, and the quality was excellent. Lesson 2: Don’t be shy about asking for to have your wants met! For instance, the waffles were done a touch too light for our preference, but the cook left a couple in for a bit longer on request, and the chef graciously made a type of sushi for us that was not on the menu. The first day we went to a couple of scheduled seminars – one at the spa, the other on what to expect for shopping at each port. The first was an attempt to sell us a particular spa treatment, and the second was a pitch for shops that sold nothing I couldn’t buy from the comfort of my computer at home for considerably less money and irritation. The shopping expert was offered on the ship’s TV channel for the rest of the voyage, so making a special effort to attend the show in person was a waste of time. The ongoing sales pitches – photos, gift shop stuff, drinks in carved coconuts so huge that they would be a problem to pack – became so annoying that we reacted by buying less on this vacation than we had ever done on any vacation previously. This initial experience with seminars also colored our expectations of what the rest of the ship’s activities would offer. We had chosen Beginning Scuba Diving for our Cozumel excursion. Each excursion has a set time, so sleeping in wasn’t an option. We met to board the tender by 8:50 and had the opportunity to stand in line again. However, we had a great time on the dive, the instructor was good, and we learned something new, which is something we enjoy more than just about anything else. Cozumel still had considerable damage from the storms. There was reconstruction and demolition throughout the port. After the dive, we walked through some of the shops. Mike was looking for a good leather belt, and I was looking for locally made goods and unusual earrings. We found only one small ceramic piece that met our expectations. The next day we met at 8:00 a.m. to stand in line for the tender into Belize. These little boats were quick – powered by 3 200-HP outboards! Once on shore, we waited in line for another 15 – 20 minutes to board the bus for the cave tubing experience. The cave tubing was one of the outstanding experiences of the entire cruise. Although the bus ride took about an hour, the time went quickly because of our guides. One of these guides, Ken, clearly loved his country and explained various sites as we passed, offered cultural and historical background, and answered questions. On arrival, we rented wet shoes – they wanted $10 with $5 to be refunded on return of the shoes - grabbed an inner tube and followed our guides the jungle. The walk was very pleasant and the guides informative. When we arrived at the river, we had the choice of jumping in from about 6’ or backing directly into our inner tubes. We chose the latter. The water was about 77 degrees and not at all uncomfortable. I’m slightly claustrophobic and felt no discomfort at all in the caves. Most of us turned off our headlamps (worn around the neck) and enjoyed the low lighting. We paddled/drifted down the river through the caves in kind of lazy version of bumper cars for over an hour – it was fantastic. Once back at camp, we had a very tasty lunch, changed into our dry gear, and boarded the bus back to port. We wandered about a little in the port shops, but most of them were carbon copies of the ones in Cozumel so we bought nothing. Once back on board, I notified the reception desk about my lost luggage cart as it not been returned and no one had contacted us. The woman at the desk assured us that they would contact us about the missing wheels, but the look she gave us was more like “What do you want us to do about it?” The next day we woke to find ourselves already tied up at the dock in Roatan. Our excursion didn’t begin until 9:20, so we were able to start the day in a more leisurely way. We had to wait for 45 minutes on dock before being transported to the site of the dolphin encounter. Lesson 3 for newly cruisers: If you don’t like lines and schedules, you might rethink the idea of cruising. This was another great excursion. We were in groups of eight with a dolphin and her trainer. Our group was great and we had a lot of fun. The staff takes photos of everyone with the dolphin that can be purchased at the gift shop as individual shots or all of them on a CD for $40. This was actually a pretty good value, as it saved us from diverting our attention from actually interacting with the dolphin. Once again, there was little in the port shops to engage our attention, although we did buy a bottle of rum that is difficult to get in the U.S. Mostly, goods in the ports were overpriced and imported. The rum was checked in as we went onboard. We had two days at sea after Roatan. The seas were rough – 12’ to 18’ swells – but it was fun. We joined some really terrific people for drinks and dinners during this time and had a lot of fun with them. We availed ourselves of the small library (free!!) and relaxed in our cabin. Our final day on board we once again notified the front desk of our missing luggage cart, as no one had contacted us. This time we spoke with more senior staff, and it was clear no one had previously made any effort to deal with our missing cart. We still had the receipt for the cart, so Monica reimbursed us in the form of a credit on our bill once the receipt was photocopied. Lesson 4: Don’t assume that the staff will automatically do the right thing – be persistent. We met a concierge onboard during our final days who was an absolute joy – Anka. While other ship board staff were beginning to show the wear of being at work for 7 days, Anka was enthusiastic, professional and helpful. She encouraged us to ask shipboard personnel for advice about where they dined while at port, something I’d liked to have known earlier in the cruise. We found no restaurant ashore that tempted us with lovely smells, which is how we usually great new places to eat while traveling. We’ll take Anka’s advice in the future. Overall, the experience was positive, but I’m not sure we’ll make a habit of cruising. The good thing about it is that your hotel is floating about with you, so packing and unpacking every day is not necessary. Also, I felt completely cut off from my regular life – calling home and internet access were fairly pricey, so we didn’t do it. This was a good thing for us, and assured we didn’t spend our vacation doing regular business. I think that future cruise choices may be more spontaneous to avoid the itinerary disappointments we had. NCL’s freestyle dining, while a little bland, was still very much more accommodating to our preferences than more traditional, formal cruise dining choices. Prior to disembarking the cruise director pressed everyone (via intercom) to please fill out their cruise evaluations and promised that each category that wasn’t rated “excellent” would result in a phone call. To date, we’ve received no such phone call. I’m sure there’s a lesson there, too.

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Aug 27, 2005

Alaska

Please! Take my Negative comments and Make them Positive. I had to do that with nearly every Trip Report I read about regarding the NCL SUN ALASKAN CRUISE. I just wished someone would have mentioned what I am about to mention to you. My husband and I got Married on August 27th 2005 (after a 5 1/2 year courtship) and we thought it would be great to do an Alaskan Cruise for our honeymoon so, I called our travel agent. (Please keep in mind

when reading this that I ONLY informed my agent of our destination and gave her a dollar amount to work with.) Our agent met with us and had ready 3 different Cruise Lines to chose from and we chose Norwegian Cruise Lines (solely based on affordability). Our ship was the "SUN" and we sailed the 7-Day Sawyer Glacier (roundtrip from Vancouver, BC) from August 28th - September 4th 2005. This was "FREE STYLE" cruise for those who know of if. Before I start I must tell you the VIEWS are spectacular, the PORTS were a must see again (3 out of 4 of them at least) and the STAFF on board were phenomenal. People don't realize how much time is actually spent on board the ship (or floating hotel) until you really do it and with knowing that our experience was not the greatest for us even though it WAS our HONEYMOON. We thought the actual cruise/boat time was about 70% fun. Because of OUR age (I am 28 and my husband is 35) there was not many Onboard ACTIVITIES for us to do, We didn't meet ANY couple's our age (very age minority), the buffet food was worse than Old Country Buffet (for those who know that chain of restaurants), and I don't care if I don't see another JEWELRY store for a long time (explain later on). For example some of our activities were "50's & 60's night," "70's Disco nit," "Ballroom Dancing," and "Country Line Dancing," "Twisted Karaoke," there version of the popular game shows like "Jeopardy," "Who Wants To Be Millionaire," "Weakest Link" and of course "Love Connection." The game shows were great if you were a little tipsy. Do those activities thrill you? They did have 3 theatrical performances which were PHENOMENAL they were Mr. Producer, Cirque Pan (like Peter Pan), and Que Noche. I went to Cirque Pan with the husband (who is not a theater buff but actually enjoyed it too). And seen Oue Noche by myself. You can always find some fun in theater and we did. As for the rest of time on board you really had to look for something to do. Our nightly options (in our opinion of course) were either to drink at the bar(s), go gamble at the casino, or having alone time in your room--- hehehe. My husband and I are not big drinkers but we let loose on the ship, we chose to keep our money but did play some slots and tables, and as far as the alone time goes...it was our honeymoon!... Hehehehehe! lol. We did look for other couples to mingle with but there were none to be had. If they were our age they already had a kid or two and were content with there families. Everyone on that ship was a good 45 yrs old and above. NOW I know why people say "Why I retire I would like to do an ALASKAN cruise." So, our only choice for other out sourced communication was from the bartenders -- and they were great, friendly, and always had the next drink ready (that was nice). Surprisingly! When we disembarked to get onto the bus that would take us back to airport we seen another couple that was on our ship AND it was there HONEYMOON too AND a little bit younger than us and there faces showed it all... 2 big sour puss's like ours. We only wished we could have met them ON the cruise. OK, the buffet... OMG the buffet!!! I have one question. Do you like your scrambled eggs with or without soupy water? There eggs were soooo watery you had to use a ladle with holes, drain out your eggs, and place them on your plate for about 5 minutes to let them air dry before eating them and this was EVERY morning. There buffets were something we dreaded everyday for breakfast and lunch because you would literally have to walk the entire ship to all of the buffet's to see who had something decent to eat. They did offer you different ethnic foods but ARE they foods you would even what to try? I only touched the oriental buffet because it kind of hard to FUBAR that. For DINNER we CHOSE to eat at the SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS where we had to pay anywhere from $10.50 to $25.00 per person per plate to eat real food like filet mignon, lobster, salmon steaks, and other ethnic foods depending on the restaurant you chose. THAT FOOD WAS AMAZING !!!! I truly think that since the buffet's and 24-Hour Room Service were included in our FREE STYLE CRUISE FARE that they intentionally make those bad so you WILL eat at the SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS where you PAY MORE MONEY for you meals. I mean C'mon we just dished out Thousand's of Dollars for this cruise and NOW I have to PAY to get a "REAL" meal. (Other guests felt the same way ... we heard them complaining on more than one occasion) What's next? Oh yeah the JEWELRY... All we can say is that YOU better bring some COLD HARD CASH or a NON-USED credit card because there is JEWELRY EVERY WHERE YOU TURN and it's all BEAUTIFUL AND INEXPENSIVE! The Jewelry was the only real thing I felt that was pushed on you while we were on the ship. Every port-jewelry store after jewelry store. Our ports had anywhere from 25 to 95 jewelry stores in a 5 block radius. My husband bought me a three stone sapphire charm with three diamonds alternating the sapphire's for $399.00 after I haggled with the jeweler in Ketchikan and paid cash. But we watched people purchase small dollar jewelry like us to really extravagant $10,000.00 and up jewelry without batting an eye. WHOA!!! (When I got back home I took my charm it to be appraised by my jeweler to see if it was really worth the money and she told me it was worth double and a half what we paid for it.... THAT WAS AMAZING!!!) The Jewelry was so much cheaper for us BECAUSE of going to the ports towards the END of the Season (Our cruise was the 3rd cruise from last for NCL for the season) --- Found out that really affects your shopping there in Alaska. SALE! SALE! SALE! everywhere you looked. (almost bought a new wedding band to match my engagement ring too! BUT I didn't want to push my luck even though my husband told me I could have bought it. My engagement ring has diamonds and sapphires in it hence why he got the charm to match. Maybe there will be 3 more pieces in my future i.e. bracelet, earrings, and that wedding band...lol.) The ports that the ships go to are ONLY OPEN for the 5 months of what they call "Cruising Season [May-September]" after that it is literally a ghost town with nothing there but the locals-which to our surprise the census of the locals is way under 1000 people per town. They make there money off the Cruise Industry. SHOPPING TIP: If you have the chance to buy something really great in Alaska try to buy it from the "locals." We found out from the "locals" that the stores that are HEAVILY advertised by the NCL Cruise Industry (which you'll know once your on your ship) are stores that come in from California, New York, Florida, etc., and there like eagle's swooping in to take the sales away from the "local" vendors. Every vendor that the NCL CRUISE ship promotes is paying the NCL Cruising Industry 10% of there total yearly gross receipts weather or not there sale is during or after cruise season and some of the locals can't afford that kind of advertisement and they get looked over ... and when you see their homes YOU KNOW THEY CAN'T AFFORD THAT. (That was the depressing part of my trip) You can find a few of them mixed in with other stores but we found them towards the end of "the strip." You know the stores at the end of "the strip" have better prices so save your money because you will re-pass all the others that you likes while walking back to the ship. We shopped backwards at every port. Went to the end and walk towards the ship... And when you have a lot of packages you only want to walk one way.... RIGHT? (makes sense to me) SO, we bought most of our things from the locals and some from the "eagles" lol. The ports we went to were Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Wrangell-in that order. This year (2005) was the last year/season that NCL will be traveling to WRANGELL- but there was NOTHING there to see at all... The other ports were by far the BEST !!! My husband and I said if we go back Alaska we're just going to go and visit Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway on an individual basis because that would be worth it. You don't realize how much time your on the ship until you run out of things to do. I think the NCL SUN would have been a lot better for my husband and I had we met some other couples our age to talk to. We definitely should have gone with another couple on this cruise. Everyone who had gone on our cruise brought family and friends and so you could tell they were having a GREAT time with each other! We didn't have that option... Make sure you can afford a BALCONY STATEROOM. (Everyone of the trip reports I read prior to cruising raved on how much better those rooms were-- and it was worth it to sleep with the sound of the ship passing through the water- although if your a light sleeper closing the door kept out all the sound which could be nice too) Make sure your BALCONY STATEROOM is enclosed with a roof. I noticed when we got to our first port there were OTHER cruise lines there too and some of there balcony's did NOT have a roof -- kind of makes it hard for you be outside looking at the mountains/rainforest or taking pictures when it raining... don't you think? (I could be wrong but I think it was the PRINCESS (Sapphire) ship that was at the first port with us and they had a half and half -- meaning that some balcony's only had the two sides for privacy with no roof overhead and some had sides for privacy and a roof overhead.) Booking Shore Excursions through the Cruise Line vs. Buying one at the Port: There are excursions available once you are at each port that are way cheaper than what the cruise line offers. HOWEVER, the really cool shore excursions that my husband and I booked were not available in there entirety. Example: We did the Four Glacier Medenhall Dogsled Tour where you go in a helicopter for about 20 minutes to the top of the Mendenhall Glacier and spend about 40 minutes at the dogsled camp and included in your 40 minutes is a 25 minute dogsled tour with your own guide and then another 25 minute helicopter tour back down the mountain where you started. Now the tour I seen at the port was just a helicopter tour and this did not state what you toured or for how long. A quick pro/con is: The PRO is that ****we booked our excursions (1 at each port) before setting foot on the cruise, we did have to wait to find out if there was availability but we got all of ours like we wanted, we got to pick our time (some things offer more than one time), and it was gaureented . (you can start your booking for the excursions as early as 1 month prior to your sail date all the up to the night before the port on the ship -- they have a Shore Excursion Desk on board.) ****Since we booked ahead of time ALL of our shore excursion tickets were on our bed when we first walked into our room for the first time which was nice because I noticed that I booked the wrong shore excursion at one of the ports and the Shore Excursion Desk kindly exchanged it for what it was supposed to have been with NO problem at all. (I was just lucky that there was still an opening) Ummm... when you come to port there are people all over holding up signs that say your excursion on them so you don't have to hunt or get worried where to go-You just load up on a bus and it takes you to your excursion and brings you back. The CON is that you can find other fun excursions at the ports for LESS but is it available? And is it truly what you want to do? are you just settling? Or better yet is it worth your money? These questions I didn't want to face, knowing it was our first time there. However, if we go back to the ports we decided we will just do these spur of the moment bookings just because they are available for less to the cruisers and the general public. I know I come across unhappy in this review but I had such HIGH expectations as far as the SHIP activities go.

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Jul 9, 2005

Alaska

NCL Sun 7 Day Alaska Brian We departed NY for Seattle Thursday, 7/8 and stayed two nights at "The Inn at Harbor Steps", a great hotel- large room, view of Puget Sound, located 2 blocks from the water front and Pikes Market and staffed by young people who want you to enjoy their city and priced moderately. Had an extensive tour of all the neighborhoods of the city with "Show Me Seattle" tours booked through the hotel and ate seafood

at "Ivars" on the pier. Next day we did Pikes Market and Pioneer Square, the Underground Tour, and enjoyed walking the city- ate at "Pichet", an authentic French Bistro close to the hotel. Saturday morning we picked up a car at Hertz and drove to Vancouver( three hours ride) - stayed at "Pacific Pallisades Hotel" on Robeson St, top class service, location , rooms and amenities. Took a city tour that was outstanding booked at the hotel and ate dim sum at at a nearby Chinese restaurant. Both Seattle and Vancouver were cities where we could have spent more time. Next morning we boarded the Sun at Canada Place. Boarding was quick and efficient, our concierge meet us at the check in line after the paper work was finished, and we were in our AC suite in 45 minutes (skip the line for photos and save ten minutes). 9276 aft was spacious and well kept . The cabin opened to an mirrored entry hall with access to the bathroom. The hall lead to a living room with a couch (sleeper), two arm chairs, a large coffee table, large TV, stereo system and DVD player. There were flowers, champagne, and chocolate covered strawberries on the table Along one wall was a built in desk and glass toped cabinet that held glasses and stemware, a mini- bar/fridge and storage space. Floor to ceiling sliders opened to an expansive balcony that was aprox 20 ft long and held two loungers, two chairs and a small table. There was another set of these sliders in the adjacent bedroom that opened to the balcony and we spent many hours on the balcony viewing the splendor of Alaska. The bedroom had a large closet and two tables, and a queen bed . It opened to a dressing room with a closet, draw storage and a make up table and mirror. The adjacent bathroom had a jetted tub, separate shower, sink, lots of storage and a separate WC room. Our butlers and stewards were professional and took great care of the room and us. Each afternoon they brought some treat from the galley to go with our cocktails. The room was made up and turned down with care and many personal touches. Room service was quick and accurate. We have cruised on many other lines and ships but the Sun to Alaska was the best overall experience from service to entertainment . You can eat where and when you like. We ate at French food at Le Bistro, steak at East meets West, escargot and veal at the Seven Seasons, crab legs at the Garden Cafe. We always found something good and interesting for lunch from the curry station, pizzeria, grill or the buffet line and often carried it aft to the Great Outdoor Cafe and ate alfresco (dress warm for this) . Meal times did not dictate our schedule. The Broadway Review was excellent and we spent many hours at the Windjammer Lounge listening to Gershwin, Porter, show tunes, sing alongs and sipping scotch. There was an excellent guitarist in Las Tapas. This was a boat for adults of a certain age and there were people from all over the world to talk to, sing with, dine with, and enjoy. There were lingering sunsets that stretched across the sky untill midnight and one night a clear star filled sky and orange moon low on the horizon. The Inside Passage is a magnificent ride. We saw locals in small boats reeling in 40 lb salmon. We saw Orcas, eagles, seals ice flows, two glaciers, but cruising the Tracy Arm was the most dramatic. This was six hours of visual poetry. Activities were always available. We had lectures on how to write a novel and why Alaska looks the way it does. The ports and excursions were interesting and expensive . But we drank Alaska Ale at The Red Onion in Skagway and ate home made meatloaf sandwiches at the Red Dog in Juno or vice versa and we hit all the local museums and craft shops in Ketchikan. We took the White Pass Railway Trip in Skagway purchased through NCL for 100 dollars each. Worth the money. We sat on the left side going up in the middle of the car for great vistas. In Juno we purchased bus fare to the Mendenhall Glacier on the dock from a local company for 10 dollars each (round trip). There are many tour operators selling various tours. (Ask how long you will have to wait for pickup/return.) At the glacier we paid 3 dollars each admission to the visitor's center. This was a great way to see the glacier at our pace for much less than the boat was asking. We had friends who took the more expensive float plane tours and enjoyed them. I would book expensive trips through NCL but you can go online and find tour operators and check their prices. The small boat tour of Tracy Arm is a good choice if you want to get closer to the Sawyer Glacier. Perhaps Wrangall was the most unique port. The local people come to meet you at the dock and cook fresh crab, salmon, chowder and serve you on picnic tables-all for a reasonable price. You will never eat fresher seafood. They will even take you to play golf and it is all mom and pop stuff. Small town America undecorated by large corporations is still to be experienced. The staff and officers of the Sun are a group of hard working dedicated professionals who make you feel like welcome guests. There was a Latitudes party, Captain Welcome party, Suite passengers party, many sail away parties. People smile and greet you and it all is relaxed and without affectation. Getting off the ship was as smooth as getting on. You can stay in your cabin until called. We left knowing we would sail again on this boat. Hertz picked us up at Canada Place and we took the scenic roads back to Seattle and flew home the next day. It was a great vacation.

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Jul 9, 2005

Alaska

We had an incredible time on this cruise! I can't stress enough how excellent the service was throughout. The staff seemed genuinely interested and concerned with meeting any need I might have, and we were well entertained by the cruise director's staff. We chose to eat at the "free" restaurants most nights, and had buffet a couple of times. The food at the Four Seasons and Seven Seas was beyond expectations. We had great options

at every meal, and everything from lobster to lamb to oysters to steak was prepared perfectly and presented in a breath-taking manner. The buffet was not quite what I expected in that, while breakfast was great (mmmm, freshly made waffles and omelets!!), other meals were lacking in variety. That's how I felt, though my husband was pleased with it all and I have to say that all of the meat and fish dishes in the buffet were flawlessly cooked and presented. I just felt that the dining room meals were in the "A" class, while the buffet was more of a "C+" - so who wouldn't choose the dining room every night?? Some issues concerning money that I wish I'd known ahead of time: 1. Bingo cost me $60 for 4 games, with a payout per game of maybe $200 - a huge disappointment for me and not worth it in the least. 2. The bucket of beer special is the way to go if you during - I think 6 domestics, in an ice filled helmet, was about $18 including gratuity, which was nice. 3. The best coffee on board is at the Java Cafe and must be paid for. There's no coffee in room (other than instant) and the buffet brew was undrinkable. 4. If money is of concern for you, keep in mind that you have $10 per day, per person, deducted from your ship account (to cover gratuities) - also, there's a 15% gratuity charge on EVERYTHING you order up (coffee at the coffee bar, buckets of beer, etc.) That sounds fair enough, but there's also a line on each bill that says, "additional tip" so you can leave extra for the server if they give you exceptional service. Well, I felt that everyone of them gave us exceptional service (how they remembered our names so quickly I'll never know!) and so felt obliged to add a $1 tip to every purchase. Needless to say this process, combined with the 15% on every bill, added quite a bit to our ship account. 5. Anything being sold on the ship is very expensive - we bought our stuff (T-shirts, etc.) at the port stores - tourist traps but at least there were deals ($4.99 t-shirts for example). On board the ship, you could purchase 1/4 million dollar bracelets and $15000 lithographs - not exactly my "thing" but it was kinda fun to watch other people doing it. 6. The coupon book that was promised to us by our agent (because we booked with a mastercard) was useless - some of what was offered was no better than the standard on board "deals" and specials that anyone could get. I think we used only one coupon, and it was nearly worthless. 7. I hate to gripe about money, but certain things sure seemed pricey to us - the annoying photos who snap your picture every time you step out of your cabin want $10 for a single picture, "pop" is $1.50 per can plus the 15% gratuity - though you can get a special "all you can drink" pop deal for over $40 - who's drinking that much pop in 7 days??!! On the brighter side, though: the party atmosphere, despite the average passenger being roughly twice our age, was in full swing, thanks to the cruise director's staff. The entertainment was excellent between the dance group, bands, comic and magician, added to the cruise director's staff and fellow passengers who were willing to get involved - we were entertained constantly, which is what we were looking for. The scenery is, of course, beautiful and everyone seemed to love the Alaska and all it has to offer. Would I go on this ship again? Probably. Would I use NCL again? Absolutely. Would I take my kids next time? Yes (the kids program looked excellent!) Did I like "freestyle" cruising? Absolutely

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Jun 18, 2005

Alaska

Other than the scenery, I didn't care that much for the ship activities,shows or how the ship handled shore excursions ,or even trying to get into the non paying dining room, we should of had some kind of crowd control. When we went to the cafeteria for breakfast or lunch we were hurried, took our trays before we were finished. They should have rushed the people who were just sitting there looking out the windows. As far as the entertainment

went we were able to get good seats one time otherwise we could hear the show but not see it. Iwill never use Norwegian Cruise Line again.

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Apr 8, 2005

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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Mar 19, 2005

Western Caribbean

Planning this vacation took months, the day came and now the week is over and i just want to go back to the sun!!! We sailed on the Norwegian Sun, Western Caribbean, March 19-26, 2005. It went to Grand Cayman, Honduras, Belize, and Cozumel. We chose this because it was a different kind of itinerary and I had never been to the Western Caribbean. Overall, we had a great time because we made ourselves have a great time. We both went

in with a great attitude and excited about our trip and little pitfalls weren't going to ruin it for us. I have sailed on Norwegian before, when I was a kid with my parents and I remember it being a lot nicer. I think the cruise line has dropped a little in service and prestige. But we got a great price and still had a great time!! Embarkation, I was expecting to be a breeze. But I found the opposite. The pier staff were rude and short and blunt with the guests. We had just arrived to the Miami pier from the airport, expecting to be greeted with kindness and friendliness and were instead shuffled like cattle with no customer service at all! Terrible, but we looked at the bigger picture. Please make sure you have your advanced guest registration print out from online with you and your ticket sheets with you when you check in...they are very impatient and don't like to wait for you to get the papers out of your bag. Ship was SPOTLESS! Just as i have read from previous reviews on this ship, the crew encourages cleanliness and sanitation and it was great! We had an inside stateroom on Deck 10. One of the bigger inside staterooms, it was nice, i wish we had opted for one of the balcony rooms. We saw a peek and they were really nice! But still, our room was immaculate and our housekeeping staff were terrific! they cleaned our room twice a day with fresh towels and bathroom cleanings twice a day! it was wonderful service, the best on the ship and we tipped them extra at the end of the trip. First stop, Grand Cayman...we decided to go it alone in Grand Cayman and did the snorkeling and swimming with Stingrays. it was $35/person for transportation, snorkel equipment, all of that and we had a great time! Definitely worth the money. Unfortunately, Grand Cayman had been destroyed by Hurricane Ivan last September and just now are they starting to put everything back together. The sad part was that all the trees were dead and the island just wasn't that pretty as i am sure it once was. But we had a great time. Second stop, the island of Roatan off the coast of Honduras. Beautiful, rustic island. Very poor and very little population. We decided to spend the day at the beach. The nicest beach on the island is West End Beach. The cab is expensive but they pick up when you want to leave the beach and you just pay on the way back. So, it is roundtrip service which was convenient. The beach was beautiful with stunning water and sand. It was great, very relaxing. It is a mountainous island with beautiful views from the top, which the cab stopped at and let us take pictures. Really great. Only one paved road on the island and not one stoplight...bumpy roads! Complete opposite from Grand Cayman. Third stop, Belize. I had been told by a friend that had also gone to Belize on a cruise that we should definitely have a plan when we were there. So, we booked a shore excursion through the ship, to go snorkeling. It was amazing!!! A catamaran, booze-cruise took us 45 minutes in the middle of the ocean to Rendezvous Caye...a teeny little island with 8 palm trees to go snorkeling in the reef that borders Belize completely. It was really beautiful and serene. It was $67/person for the 3 1/2 hour trip. Really fun, would recommend it. That was only our morning though and in the afternoon we tendered (REALLY LONG TENDER) into Belize City. Well, we were not impressed unfortunately. They have GATED off a tourism village in Belize for cruise visitors with tourist stores and stuff. Very canned feeling but we were discouraged from locals and cruise staff from leaving the GATED area because of possible crime. It was awful in the sense that we couldn't go anywhere to see real Belize. Definitely have a plan in this port and have fun! the snorkeling is some of the best in the world supposedly, so take advantage of it! Final stop, Cozumel. After a morning of shopping and taking advantage of the silver in downtown Cozumel, we decided to rent a scooter and drive around the island. We felt very safe. there is one road all the way around the island that stays on the coast. So, we just took off and stopped by the side of the road to go swimming and stuff....SO FUN!!! Would definitely do this! Rented the scooter for $38 for the day. GREAT! On the way back though, we had a run in with the "federalis", a cop who tried to give us a ticket for going the wrong way down a one-way street...but there were no signs to follow. We got out of it, but it was just a bunch of you know what, so don't be pushed around down there when they see tourists that could bring them money. Freestyle Dining, pretty good. we ate at two of the specialty restaurants that they charge surcharges for. We ate at Ginza, the Japanese place and Le Bistro, the French restaurant. Both EXCELLENT, too bad the best food on the ship was the one you had pay extra for. But they were well worth the price. Don't expect great food from the buffets, it is buffet food so you already know what to expect. The main restaurants are very good with 4 course meals every night. Overall, we had a great time, we gambled every night and laid out every day. We got sun, beach, drinks, swimming, and good deals on shopping. What else could we ask for! i guess i would recommend this ship to others. Service could have been a lot better--seems they have lost the phrase, "service with a smile", it was just very obvious that they did this every week, but we don't get to do every week! Hope you enjoy your travels and i hope this is helpful!!!!

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Mar 5, 2005

Western Caribbean

We booked this cruise while on another NCL cruise aboard the Norwegian Dream, which was our first cruise. After waiting almost 15 months, embarkation day finally arrived. We took our 17 year old son, and my mother in law who is 79 years old with us this time. The embarkation process in Miami was effortless. We purchased a transfer from NCL from Fort Lauderdale, and since we had sailed with NCL previously, we were able to use the Latitudes

entry. Within 10 minutes of arriving at the pier we were boarding the ship. Everything was perfect - we had no complaints. The food was great, the service was excellent, especially from Andrew Harris and Elena Iliescu in the Four Seasons Dining Room and Elena Stanciu in the Java Cafe. Our stewards, Athena Ponce and Terry Fernandez were wonderful and left us towel-animal sculptures every evening. The shows were entertaining also. The only thing we wish we could change would be having lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe - two salads, a cup of soup, chicken strips and onion rings, a root beer and two Bahamas Mama's cost $85.00!!! Way too much for mediocre food. I will be writing a letter to them! We would sail NCL again and would definitely sail on the Norwegian Sun again without hesitation!

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Feb 19, 2005

Western Caribbean

My wife and I just returned from this cruise a few weeks ago, and are now suffering from the after-vacation blues. For those of you who are planning a trip with this particular ship, the ports, and crew, I envy you already. Embarkation went relatively smooth. Naturally, there are long lines, but we kept moving and before we knew it, we were handing over our credit card. Right at that moment, there was a loud clap of thunder, but the

skies were clear. Later, I would realize it was the financial storm looming on the horizon. (A little humor to remind you that the bill at the end of the cruise can be pricey if you get carried away.) After boarding the ship, we found our cabin. We LOVED it! I can’t imagine a better way to go than to have your own balcony. It was great to go out early in the morning, sip coffee and watch the ocean. The only downside was our unfortunate luck to have a small child two doors down who threw a temper tantrum every chance she got. Little Girl: “I WANT A COOKIE!!!!! Mother: “But we don’t have any cookies.” Little Girl: “I WAAAAAAAANT A COOOOOOOOOOKIE!!!!” However, if both doors were closed (ours and hers) the sound was so muffled, it was almost inaudible. The soundproofing was excellent, and my early fears about hearing noise from the Stardust Theater below were unfounded. Our first exposure to the pool area for the sailing away party wasn’t too thrilling. We filled our plates and found a place to sit by the basketball court. If you don’t like the sound of basketballs bouncing off cement, screaming kids, and amplified bands, the pool area should be avoided. Since we weren’t on a quest for the perfect tan anyway, it wasn’t for us. When we got back to our room, the bags had arrived, so we unpacked just before being called to the lifeboat drill. They have everybody stand in lines, show you how to put on your life jacket, and then walked back and forth yelling something, but we couldn’t tell what it was. A megaphone might have helped. I learned more watching the video they play on the TV in the room, and when I found out they didn’t even check off names as to who was there, I wished we had just skipped it altogether. The first day at sea is a great time to familiarize yourself with the ship. It’s fun to explore, and it’s so big that you will still be backtracking and double checking the maps on the wall right up until you leave. Always keep in mind if you are AFT or FORWARD, before deciding where you want to go. From some decks, you can’t go forward, and have to...(well, you’ll figure it out.) We didn’t try all the restaurants. We skipped the fancy ones since I saw no point to have to dress up for dinner and then pay them on top of it. We loved the Seven Seas for breakfast and dinner, and the service was excellent. We ate at the buffet a LOT. The variety was wonderful, and the food was great. My favorite was the desserts, and I ate so much that I began to notice whenever I went from one side of the boat to the other, it tipped.   Since a little exercise was in order, we used the walking/jogging path a lot at night. So many places to stop along the way and look out at the ocean or watch a beautiful sunset, or the moon lighting up the water. Much nicer than the ice and snow we have to look at now. (Pardon me while I have a good cry.) We booked a tour through NCL for the glass-bottom boat to see the stingrays in Grand Cayman. After stopping in the town of “Hell” we were taken to a boat that took us out to the glass bottom boat. We watched as the diver brought the stingrays around the windows and got plenty of good pictures and an informative speech from the diver at the end. After that was Turtle City. We were supposed to stop at the beach where the movie “The Firm” was filmed but were pressed for time because one woman didn’t return to the bus at the time we were all told to be there. She was asking a vendor all about Cuban cigars because she wanted to purchase them for friends back in the states, (illegal, by the way) so we waited, and waited, and waited some more. Stuff like this happens, so I kept cool, and hoped that her cigars would be confiscated, and she would be forced to walk the plank. Back on ship, I was looking through the list of events they give you (daily) and saw a Star Search talent contest. I can sing a little, so I picked out a song from a book they had of everything the band could play and signed up. Having very little experience in front of crowds, I decided to try the Karaoke that night at Dazzles Disco, but chickened out. I wondered how I was going to get up in front of people at the Stardust Theater when I couldn’t even face the slightly tipsy crowd at Dazzles? The next port was Roatan. From the ship, it looked like a beautiful place. We decided not to do any excursions there, and began walking into the city. I was looking for a place to purchase a set of headphones for my mini-disc player since the airlines stole a pair out of my suitcase. One of the locals told us he could run get his taxi and pick us up, take us to a store, drive us around town, take us to the beach, whatever we wanted for $20.00. It seemed fair to me, so (foolishly) I agreed. All he did was bring us another taxi, which we (foolishly) got in. The conversation went something like this: Me: “I’m looking for a store that sells small headphones. Do you know where I can find one?” Cab driver: “Beach?” Me: “No, I’m looking for a place in town. A store. The other guy was telling me about--” Cab driver: “Beach?” We soon discovered he didn’t speak a word of english (except for “Beach”). After sitting in a traffic jam in a hot taxi, we were finally able to get the message across that we just wanted to get back to the ship. (I circled the picture of the ship on the map and showed it to him. He was still confused, so he stopped and asked someone on the street that directed him. “Why is he driving away from the ocean?” I asked my wife who was as confused as I was. The driver must have picked up on my concern, and just told me, “Back road.” It was then I realized how vulnerable we were, and also how much cash we were carrying at the time. Of course, we were perfectly safe, but I decided if we got out of this, Karaoke would be a breeze. He dropped us off at the pier, and we walked back into town, saying “No, thank you” a thousand times to street vendors before finding the store where I bought my headphones. We still made it before the ship had to leave the dock and begin using tenders to bring passengers aboard. That night, I sang my heart out at the Karaoke taking place in the Observation lounge. In Belize, we decided to book a tour with someone on the pier. We spoke with a woman named Vida who took us around the city, answered all our questions, and then took us to the Belize zoo. It was enjoyable except when it started to rain at the zoo. Cozumel was another gauntlet of merchandise vendors, but the Atlantis Submarine excursion was pretty cool. The actual fish (and even sharks {babies}) you see below doesn’t quite live up to the hype, but it’s still kind of neat just going 100 feet down. Although, I was disappointed when they wouldn’t let me fire a torpedo at a passing sailboat. After that, we stocked up on gifts for friends and family and prepared for our last day at sea. That night, we saw the stage production “Que Noche” and marveled at the ability of the dancers. Afterwards, they brought out what appeared to be the entire crew and staff on stage. I thought singing “We are the World” was a little over the top for them, but it gave us all a chance to applaud the wonderful job they did that week. The last day, I was too nervous about the talent show to dwell on the fact that the vacation was almost over. We knocked around the ship, tried the chocolate deal going on downstairs, and looked at all the photos of passengers. I sang at the show (it went well, but I didn’t win...sniff sniff.) and after that we took pictures around the ship, and tried our luck at the casino. There was a woman there who had won $1700.00 playing the slots! She was yelling that it would pay for half her trip. We chose the express disembarkation, and it was a breeze! In less than five minutes, we were waiting for the bus. I always look forward to getting home after a trip, but this time, I knew I was going to miss the ship. I think the times I enjoyed the most weren’t the ports or excursions, but just being on the ship, and taking advantage of everything it had to offer. Mostly enjoying my time on the balcony, sipping coffee and watching the ocean. When the weight of the world is crushing my shoulders, or the job stress is giving me headaches, or I’m shoveling snow in ten below weather; I will lower my pale into the deep well of memories, and think back to our balcony on the Norwegian Sun. I’ll feel the ocean breeze on my face, and smell the coffee’s aroma while a breathtaking sunrise unfolds before me. (Of course, I’ll leave out the part where the little girl screams for a cookie.)

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Feb 12, 2005

Western Caribbean

Although the flight we had to take to arrive in Fort Lauderdale, via Charlotte, was smooth enough, the lack of a non-stop flight was somewhat of a problem because of needing oxygen. You might be better off making your own arrangements for flights depending on where you live. When we arrived at the airport, the person monitoring the passengers for the Sun was a tremendous help and pretty much stayed with my wife and i until we boarded

the bus. This care was repeated during the entire trip including aboard ship. Just as Bob Erickson reported, i had never gotten so many smiles and hellos as i did on this trip but i have had the close experience on each of my 3 cruises with Norwegian. I have made 3 cruises with friends and for my wife and i the experience is great. Because of needing oxygen 24/7 and needing a cart for mobility (my wife refused to push a wheelchair on this one) we required a handicapped cabin and the size was unbelievable as i could turn the scooter around inside. Everywhere we went onboard we received gracious treatment from the staff. I have always had great meals on the ships and the Sun was the same, The Freestyle suits our group as non of us like getting dressed to the nines for dinner but they do have a formal night on the Sun in the Four Season dining room and ask those who do not dress formally to eat in the Seven Seas dining room. Because of tenders i could not take shore excursions but my wife did and was very happy with her choice especially the Sting Ray Tour. I would advise anyone with a wheelchair or a scooter to leave the ship at Cozumel and take the bike ride into town (a very short distance) that is offered by many men just as you leave the ship. That will free you to leave the scooter or wheelchair on board and still visit the stores near the dock. All of my friends said that there are no real highlights but they did not visit the Mayan ruins. Because the cruise officers asked me to change cabins because they needed to make repairs to the one i had, they offered dinner at Le Bistro and a bottle of wine which we accepted and found the Restaurant to have class and maybe a little better food but i would no pay $15 extra for it because the food is great. The shows started with a preview on the first night and each night was a real treat with the cast having tremendous talent. My wife and i and our friends were looking for a great cruise with good food, good shows and a clean ship. We found this on the Sun as we were not interested in gourmet eating, sports, spas or any other such amenities and we found what we wanted at a reasonable price. After the cruise we boarded the bus for Miami Int'l and when we got to the airport the representative for the cruise line stayed with me and my wife until we reached our gate, gave us good advice for future trips and helped circumvent some of the hold ups along the way. I may not take another cruise but if i do it will undoubtedly be on Norwegian

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Feb 12, 2005

Western Caribbean

 David Koss What more can I say than it was the best vacation experience we ever had. We just came off a 3 day Bahamas cruise on the Royal Caribbean Sovereign and Royal was a joke ( read my review)! NCL is really a great cruise line. The staff is amazing, the ship was spotless anywhere you went and the food was GREAT! We took our 3 children on a 7 day cruise and they loved it too. The Kid's Crew is fantastic ( the kids couldn't

wait to get there). In fact i thought the staff onboard was nicer than the people working in Disneyworld. We had a suite with concierge and I would recommend that to anyone, it's a great tool. The activities were well planned and COMMUNICATED to the passengers. Freestyle cruising is great, eat what you want when you want! I would definitely recommend this cruise to anyone and plan to tell people to avoid Royal Caribbean if possible!

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Feb 5, 2005

Western Caribbean

Our cruise to the Western Caribbean did not begin until Saturday, but because the four of us were coming into Miami from four different Midwestern and Northeastern cities, we decided to meet in Miami the day before. I chose the Holiday Inn Miami Int’l Airport because it offered free shuttle from the airport and then free shuttle to the Port the next day. We reserved two rooms, each less than $100 per night. I booked this through Priority

Club, and we had two lovely rooms. The staff was efficient and we ate dinner in the restaurant on the premises, and it was very good. Both shuttles went smoothly, and we were very satisfied. I would not hesitate to stay there again. We left the Inn at 10:30 am, and arrived at the ship terminal quickly. The NCL staff was there to direct us inside where the embarkation would start. I am a Latitudes member (a perk you can pursue after one NCL cruise) so we were in the group that was first to board. We were on the ship before noon. We had 2 Superior Inside cabins, 9327 and 9328. They were both situated parallel to the hallway, so there was more room that the usual perpendicular set up. There were 2 closets and 2 sets of drawers, a desk, safe, refrigerator and TV. The bathroom had 2 sets of storage shelves and included a hairdryer. The shower had 2 dispensers - one contained liquid soap and the other shampoo. The room was clean, but I discovered later, the linens on my bed were a bit worn - time to be replaced! The room stewards were very polite and did a good job of cleaning and replacing towels etc. The storage space was very adequate for our stuff. We spent the afternoon exploring the ship (it is very helpful to study the ship map before you board) and eating lunch - in the Garden Cafe (buffet). We had drinks in the Observation Lounge, anticipating a 4:00 pm sailing, only to learn (via the Captain) that we would be delayed because a group of passengers had just departed Charlotte, NC on a delayed flight. We ended up pulling out around 7:30. We ate in the Seven Seas (I was familiar with its location from previous cruises, and knew it was less crowded, as it is harder to find than Four Seasons). After a nice dinner, we spent some time in Dazzles (nightclub) and visited the Casino. The next day was spent at sea, so we were up on the pool deck fairly early (after the breakfast buffet), so we could get good seats by the pool. We relaxed there most of the day, and enjoyed the balmy weather! We started the evening in the Sports Bar to watch the Super Bowl, then had a great Italian dinner in the Seven Seas. Monday was our first stop (Grand Cayman) and we were looking forward to a ship sponsored shore excursion - Sting Ray City and Reef Snorkel Combo ($89). We met in the Stardust Theater at 8:00 and were greeted by the unhappy news that our excursion had been canceled, due to high winds on the N side of the island. We were disappointed, but decided to take the tender into George Town and then get a cab to the middle of 7 Mile Beach. It was easy to find a cab, and cost $4.00 each. We arrived on the beach at 9:30, and there were very few people. We snorkeled on the reef just out from the beach, and saw more that I had anticipated. We stayed until noon, then got a cab back to town ($2.50 each this trip) and looked around the shops, before catching the tender back to the ship. We saved the money for the intended shore excursion, but I decided to splurge and made an appointment at the spa for later. I had a facial and wonderful back and neck massage for the price of the canceled excursion.   Very much worth the price!!! The “formal attire” dinner was in the evening, so we dressed up, went to the Observation Lounge for drinks, stood in line to have our picture taken with the Captain, and dined on lobster in the Seven Seas. We danced a bit and enjoyed the band in Dazzles. I made my nightly contribution to the casino before calling it a night. Since we did not have to hurry, we decided to try breakfast in the Seven Seas. We all had the Eggs Benedict, and the usual trappings of a hearty breakfast. The stop that day was Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras. We were docked at the pier until 11:00, when the ship would move out to let another ship in. I had arranged to meet a taxi/tour guide a week earlier. I had read some other reviews on this site, and got the name of a highly recommended taxi service. The site I contacted was therisdixon@yahoo.com . Theris herself was busy, but she sent her husband, Herny, in her place. The cost was $25 per person, and we had a wonderful tour and expert narration about the island. We stopped at an Iguana Sanctuary ($5 each) and then made our way to te West End for some snorkeling at a beach that Henry recommended (right next to Tabyana Beach). He then took us into the little town, where the main street is still sand and there is an aura about the place that screams “dive hangout”. The island just got electricity in 1991, but it has grown rapidly. We had a great day at a bargain price! We headed back to the ship and later had “snacks” at Las Robelas (Deck 12 aft) and spent the cover charge for dinner at East Meets West. Very good. Our stop on Wed. was Belize, where everywhere I I did research, one thing popped up - do a ship sponsored shore excursion, as there was very little to do in town. We signed up for the New River Jungle Trip to the Ruins at Laminae($89). After a speedboat tender, we boarded a bus for a fairly long ride to the river. Our guide was Mayan, and proud of his culture. He did a fine job of narrating the high points of Belize and the Mayans. We boarded a boat for another long ride to the ruins - the only way to get there. When we arrived, we had a lunch (OK) then hiked about a mile to the ruins. The whole experience was different for me ( a “beach bum”) and I did learn quite a bit. But, the whole time, I kept thinking about the neat catamaran snorkel trip I had given up! It was a long day, and I was glad to be back on the boat. Our last stop was Cozumel, where we had planned to visit a beach resort that I had read about called Nachi Cocom (check out the web site - very clever!). We hailed a taxi and headed for the resort. It cost $15 for the cab (not per person) and we had to agree to spend $15 at the resort in order to use the facilities (pool, beach chairs, rest rooms., hot tub etc) We had a very good lunch, and easily spent the required “cover charge”. The snorkeling was good and the beach was quite. Nice place! We went back to town around 2:00 and shopped until 5:30 - by far the best shopping of the 4 stops, but not as good as St Marten or St Thomas. We ate dinner at the poolside BBQ, a change from the dining rooms. The next day was a relaxing “at sea” day, so we roamed the ship, buying a few of the many photos taken by the ship’s photographers, checking out the shops and taking care of the details necessary for re-entry into the real world. Two of us played bingo, and 2 bridge in the library. We ate at the Four Seasons, just to compare to Seven Seas - basically, the same. Because my niece and I both had early afternoon flights, we disembarked with the “Express Group”, and handling our own bags. That was my first time doing that, and it was very stress free - no line. We went through customs, got a cab and were at the airport by 9:00! Overall, the trip was wonderful. How could anyone not enjoy being pampered in sunny, warm weather for a week!! I am a loyal NCL customer, as I love the Freestyle Cruising - I have not tried any other lines, but I don’t think I would enjoy having to report for dinner in the same place with the same people every night! I have talked to fellow travelers who like that way of doing things, and I suppose I should try it once. I have been on the Majesty, Sky,Dawn and now the Sun. Both the food and service, while very acceptable, just did not seem to be quite as outstanding as the first 3. Maybe I am just getting “used to” the lavish daily routine that is life on a cruise ship. It was still well worth the money, and definitely a necessity for me every year.  

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Feb 5, 2005

Western Caribbean

Because the Miami airport is in the middle of a construction period, Hobbit Travel (Minneapolis) flew us into Ft. Lauderdale where we boarded buses to the ship in Miami. 30 minutes and we were at the dock. There were 8 of us traveling together and all but one couple were Latitudes members…Guess which one got on the ship first? The Latitudes lines were longer than the regular lines but it only took about 15 minutes and we were boarding

the Sun. This was our 3rd cruise on the Sun, so it was like coming home. The first thing I noticed were the 6 or seven men painting the hull of the Sun. Hand sanitizers were available from the time you entered the ship and were placed near any of the food stations…and the ship was spotless for our week on board. The Sun is showing some wear and tear, but so am I. I’ve never had so many people say “Good Morning” to me in my life. The crew couldn’t have been more friendly or helpful. This was our 8th cruise on Norwegian Cruise lines and we have never had a bad experience. We like the Freestyle dining most of all. Some nights the 8 of us ate together, and some nights we chose to dine alone or share a table with others. The ease of choosing when and where you want to eat is what keeps us coming back. We’ve been on many other ships and the formality and stiffness was a turnoff. We ate mostly in the Seven Seas and the food choices were fairly varied. We ate the “Cold Soups” whenever they appeared on the menu. Some meals were much better than others, but overall we all were quite satisfied. The buffet was good and a nice change of pace from the main dining rooms. The Super bowl party was almost like being at the game. They had the game on a movie screen in the Stardust lounge, with hot dogs, hamburgers, beer, etc. and the staff in referee shirts…..Lots of opposing fans dressed in their team colors cheering and yelling, Great way to watch the game. We didn’t leave the dock at the scheduled time because of a delayed flight….but the captain said he didn’t want to disappoint 30 or so people out of their vacation, so we waited….Nice touch. Day 1 at Sea: What better than bask in the sun, eat lots of food and relax. It had been COLD in Florida when we arrived, but warmed up very nicely as we sailed deeper into the Caribbean. 2nd Day in Grand Cayman: After trying to get on the Island on our last two cruises, we finally made it. There was so much destruction from the hurricane. Buildings down, houses, trees all destroyed. We took a tour and did get to Hell and the turtle farm, but was sad to see so many people displaced. The shops were up and running and the beaches were near normal. 3rd Day in Roatan: We decided to take a tour of the island and were happy with the results. A beautiful place when you get a way from the docking area. Lush forests and the second longest coral reef in the world. The last time we were there, I bought a large stuffed toad that the locals sell and some of my grandkids asked me to get them one…so, I ended up bringing 4 more home this time. 4th Day in Belize: Tendering in was a little rough, but not as bad as we’ve seen. I went on the Old Belize River cruise and Altun Hu ruins. Got to see crocs, monkeys, parrots, toucans, lizards and manatees…..We didn’t get much time at the ruins, but did enjoy the time there. Not a bad way to see Belize. 5th Day in Cozumel: I got a high speed ride to the mainland and bordered buses to the Tulume Mayan ruins. You do get a rest stop included which happens to be a jewelry warehouse. Great jewelry there. Bought my wife a ruby/diamond pendant for Valentine’s Day. Our tour guide was a Mayan Indian that was very informative. We did get about 2 hours at the ruins and 190 digital pictures. I think the trip is well worth the price if Mayan ruins interest you. 6th Day at Sea: A rough ride all the way to Miami, but kind of fun swaying down the hallways. Sun, food, fun, relaxation and pack your bags. Saturday: We took the Express Departure off the ship (which took less than 10 minutes) and on the busses back to Ft. Lauderdale. We always have a fun time on any of the Norwegian Ships. We are set to go to Alaska again in June of 2006….and the Caribbean again this winter. The crew on the Sun couldn’t have been nicer, the food was good to great, the total entertainment package was outstanding. Nothing negative comes to mind (except coming back to Minnesota and a snowstorm).  Thanks Norwegian Sun.

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Jan 22, 2005

Western Caribbean

We selected the SUN because of these reviews. We had cruised before with a formal dining time and table, so wondered about the Freestyle Cruise and it sounded good and it was by far the best cruise and vacation we have had for awhile. We used Hobbit Travel from Minneapolis to Miami. Friday night before our next morning flight we had a really heavy snowstorm. And we did not take travel insurance. So we drove to an airport hotel, stayed

overnight, left our car there and took their shuttle early next morning. Arrived in Miami a half hour late. We discovered about 35 passengers from the Northeast coast missed their flights and the departure from Miami. We were to meet them in The Caymans on Monday. Travel insurance would be on my list next time. Checking in was quick, no lines and we were on the ship in our balcony stateroom by 2:30 PM. Luggage arrived about 5:00PM, so bring a swim suit or shorts in your carry on so you can hit the pool before luggage arrives. The BC 8262 state room was right above the life boat deck, but we could not even see them below the balcony. The little extra cost for the balcony made the trip for us. Sitting on the chairs reading, watching the ocean go by and a few dolphins was great. The staterooms are spacious - luggage under the bed and a nice closet with loads of drawers. A special treat each night awaited us after dinner when our cabin stewards left an "origami style" animal on the bed make from folded towels. A swan, elephant, dog, lobster - sometimes with my sun glasses as eyes - were left. Cruising was smooth with hardly a notice of ship sway. Deck six is a walking/jogging track with a 1/3 mile track - which we tried to walk each morning before breakfast. Also used the great exercise machine room just off the pool. First meal was in the Great Outdoors bar and buffet on the fantail overlooking the wake. It became a popular spot for everyone all week. We dined in the Seven Seas just about every meal. The service was elegant, European and Asian wait staff, and the best croissants this side of Paris every morning. As others have suggested try the specialty restaurants for an extra service charge. We tried Il Adagio for a great Italian meal and the Pacific Heights for great mussels. But, in the end, we really preferred the Seven Seas for creative gourmet food. The President's dinner menu was filled with many of our past President's - and wives - favorite meal items. We decided to take advantage of the wine club. Buy 5 bottles of wine and get the 6th bottle of wine free on the final night. I found the wine prices better than most good Minneapolis restaurant wine lists. The one disappointment we found was the same cold front up north arrived with us in The Caymans and the port was closed and no one could go ashore. The tender with the 35 Northeast late arrivals came out to the ship but the waves were too high to allow a gang plank. So, the captain sailed around the calmer South side and we were able to transfer the passengers there and continued on to Honduras. One could visually see the destruction on the trees in Georgtown from the last hurricaine. We all got our Cayman shore excursions refunded. We scheduled shore excursions in Roatan and marveled at the numerous iguanas - the locals cook them and eat them. They say they taste just like chicken. We toured the Mayan ruins in Belize and Cozumel and still had lots of time for local shopping and lunch. The tour in Roatan stops at a beach where a good reef can be snorkeled right off shore in Las Palmas. There were lectures on the ruins, cooking classes and many ship board activities too numerous to take them all in. A highlight on the final day at sea was a Chocoholic Buffet in the Four Seasons. Chocolate sculptures and ice sculptures filled the room and there must have been 15 - 20 different chocolate desserts free in the afternoon. Snacks, including pizza slices, were available at any time from after lunch until past mid night. But, most are too busy to gain weight -dispelling that myth. My wife actually lost six pounds on the trip. Observing the ships in port near us - Royal Caribbean, Carnival - the Norwegian Sun was the best. Disembarking the express way is quick. Be sure all your luggage has wheels and you get off the ship first. Otherwise, you have to go into the huge luggage warehouse and find your own luggage stacked by deck number and room. We went during the school in season, so there weren't many kids, but those that were there kept busy in the Kids area and seemed to be having a ball. It was a great cruise and we would book again.

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Jan 22, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise. Having read so many reviews on various cruise lines and ships, I quickly came to the conclusion you either like cruising, or you don’t, and if you have a disastrous first cruise, you may not try it again. We selected the Norwegian Sun because of these reviews. Freestyle cruising seemed to fit our laid back vacation style, and after what looked like rocky customer service from when the Sun first launched, it

appeared they had resolved most of these issues. We booked through Yahoo Cruises and made our own travel arrangements, flying into Miami the night before the cruise departed. We took out the travel insurance, and would definitely do that again, even though we had no need of it on this trip. We found out that about 35 passengers from the Northeast missed their flights and the departure from Miami. We would pick them up in Grand Cayman on Monday. We arrived at 12:20 to check-in. We were met curbside by a porter that was happy to check our bags. We found out we should have been given luggage tags earlier, but had received nothing. We knew our stateroom number, so the porter was able to tag the luggage and take care of it. We had 4 bags, $5 seemed appropriate and the porter seemed happy. (The bags did show up!) Check in was quick, short lines and very efficient service people, as you walk on the ship, you became familiar with their waterless hand washing system. We were on-board and in our state-room by 12:55. We had Lunch in the Garden Café, our first buffet and it was a good one. As far as buffets go, it was good. One thing we learned the next day however, there was an Outdoor Café, just around the corner, the lines are shorter, the food is the same, and you can sit on a covered or uncovered deck. They do have a security check, however I think it is more geared to confiscating alcohol from carry-on than for Security. We read in previous reviews this would be the case so we did not even bother bringing our own. On ship Prices for wine and Champagne are very reasonable, for excellent vintages. The luggage arrived about 3:45PM. Our stateroom was 8066, right above the life boat deck. The extra cost for the balcony was well worth it and helped make the trip for us. Sitting on the chairs, drinking Pina Coladas, or sipping champagne, reading, sunning ourselves, watching the ocean go by was great. One note about room service, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour when you make an order. When we were in the room, the balcony door was always open. The staterooms are nice, “spacious” on a cruise ship really does not exist, but they are nice and comfortable rooms. The bathrooms are small, but clean and efficient. The cabin service is outstanding. They cleaned twice a day, towels anytime you wanted them, the Cruise Daily, treat each night a towel configured in the shape of an animal on the bed was a nice touch. A swan, elephant, dog, lobster, walrus - sometimes with my sun glasses as eyes. Out of Port, the cruising was smooth but you could feel the swells. Many people used patches or Dramamine, we chose to use wrist bands. We didn’t have any sea sickness problems at all. On the third day, the sea was a little rough, several people became ill (sea sickness), but the service crew are right there for assistance and clean-up. I might add, this Ship has a high focus on sanitation. One that I think is appropriate given that during this week, two other ships (Royal Caribbean and Holland) both had onboard illness issues. We also had one passenger have a heart attack in the hot tub. Their response was outstanding. If you need to see a doctor, they have one, it is $50 for the visit at a minimum. They have great exercise facilities. Deck six is a walking/jogging track, with exercise machine room just off the pool. Working out for an hour each morning made the dining experience that much better in the evening. There are numerous dining opportunities on ship, we tried hitting them all. In the morning we would eat breakfast at the outdoor café, Pacific Heights for pizza and sandwiches for lunch and then one of the formal dining rooms for dinner. We tried the Seven Seas, and Four Seasons several times. I have read reviews that favor the Seven Seas, but really there is no difference between them. Same service, same Menu each night, decorations very similar. We also ate at the Bistro and the Italian Restaurant Il Adagio and found them to be excellent, but you pay a cover charge. Dining at night in the main restaurants requires slacks and a collared shirt. No a problem for us. There was an optional Formal Night in Seven Seas and Four Season Restaurant. I bought a Tie in the $10 Store on-board and went, but could have skipped it and gone to the Bistro or Il Adagio just the same. We decided to take advantage of the wine club. Buy 5 bottles of wine and get the 6th bottle of wine free on the final night. I found the wine prices better than most restaurant wine lists. One other offer we did take advantage of was the $28.95 all you can drink soft-drink package. Soft Drinks are $2.00 each, so if you drink more than 2 a day, this is a good deal. We had no problem getting refills. Beer selection is good, but is the most expensive option for alcohol. They do have a six bottles for the price of 5, in an ice filled bucket. I found the Draft beer in a large 20 oz glass to be a better value. The only disappointment we found on the trip was when we arrived at Grand Cayman. The Harbor Master closed the port and no one could go ashore. The tender with the 35 Northeast late arrivals came out to the ship. We had booked our own Scuba Trip to Sting-Ray City, however there was no cancellation fee if the ship did not let us come ashore. This saved about $35 booking this way. Apparently you have a 50-50 chance of seeing Grand Cayman week to week right now due to the Hurricane damage to the dock and rough seas. In Roatan, we booked the Ship Excursion to Fantasy Island mainly because both my wife and I scuba dive, they had a great shop their and it was easy to go out on a boat. If I only wanted beach time however, most people raved about the Tabayan Beach Party, I would do that rather than going to Fantasy Island. The Norwegian Sea was also in Port with us. It is an older ship with no balcony rooms that we could see. Having a balcony on our ship made a great deal of difference in our enjoyment. We have great Full-Moon over the Sea pictures, and some awesome sunsets and sunrises. In Belize, we toured the Altun-Ha Mayan ruins and still had lots of time for local shopping. Again, how much time you have for shopping, depends on which tour you go on. Our tour was only 3 hours, leaving us a couple of hours of shopping. If you go on the river tour, you may not have time for shopping when you get back to the dock. Those that went to Shark Ray Alley and Scuba Diving raved about the experiences as well. In Cozumel, we arranged our own Scuba Diving through the internet. This saved us about $40 from the Ship prices. Our Dive Boat left at 9:00 for a two tank dive, and we were back by 2:00 and shopped until 6:00. The Diving is outstanding in Cozumel. On the ship, there were lectures, cooking classes and many ship board activities too numerous to take them all in. We did enjoy the onboard art auctions and free champagne each time they had one. On board shopping is reasonable, shopping in Belize, Cozumel, or on board is very similar for Tanzanite and Emeralds. We found bargains at 50% of what you would find in the US. For Diamonds, we saw no real bargains. An absolute must do and extreme highlight on the final day at sea was a Chocoholic Buffet in the Four Seasons. Chocolate sculptures and ice sculptures were in the dinning area and there must have been 25 different chocolate desserts. It only lasts an hour on Friday, but it is well worth it. The disembarking process is efficient. You can go the express way if you want to walk off the ship with your luggage in tow, or you can let the ship do it for you. Either way it is easy. Everyone will be off the ship by 10:30. Our group left at 9:30 am, giving us plenty of time for breakfast. At the Airport, we talked with others from Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Everyone raved about Royal Caribbean. For Carnival, most said very little. With our own experience, we will definitely go back on Norwegian, we will also try Royal Caribbean at some point, but that does not diminish our experience at all on Norwegian, we strongly recommend them. The only snafu we encountered was the fault of the Travel Company. We were to receive $75.00 in ship-board credit. For some reason NCL did not receive it. We are still arguing with Yahoo over this. One other note, on our return to the Miami Airport, Atlanta was closed due to weather. Norwegian and Royal Caribbean had agents visible and helping customers find alternate routes. Carnival was no where to be seen. It was a great cruise and we will book with Norwegian again.

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Jan 18, 2005

Western Caribbean

The ship is well maintained, but not fancy. The casual freestyle of NCL is what the deliver. One cabin in the group did have problems with odors. Cabin size was sufficient and the beds were very comfortable. The service was slow in the main dinning rooms and average for quality. The optional venues were far better in service and quality, but you have a charge for most area. The café buffet area was limited in choice compared to other

ships. Room service was prompt with a wakeup call to make sure you were ready for them to deliver. Shore excursions can be purchased at a ATM type machine which was great. Unfortunately the staff was not well organized on shore and was difficult to find the correct waiting area even for this traveler of almost 20 cruises. A new cruiser would think they had a great time, but I’m hesitant to recommend to a repeat traveler that has traveled on other lines. I was very impressed at the aggressive nature NCL took with sanitizing stations before boarding and at all eating area. Please note the tender facilities are NOT designed for wheel chairs and one guest was quite upset that they only could see one of the four ports during the cruise.

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Jan 15, 2005

Western Caribbean

Kaity Ng I came back from the cruise not too long ago and still fresh in my memories. As a first timer to a cruise, I’ve hesitated on which cruise line to pick from the variety of cruise lines. Thankfully, Norwegian definitely left an impression on me and I’m excited on the next cruise that I will be planning. My first impression was the ship itself, inside and out. It was clean, elegant and spacious. When we stepped into the

ship, we were greeted by the “Welcoming Crew” and alcohol-base sanitizer for the hands. At first I was freaked out on how much this ship is germ phobic. There was a germ-killer machine every time you get on the ship, before eating, the arcade room, the fitness room and anything where you get your hands on. But as the cruise proceed, I felt safer that they had these machines everywhere. It is definitely two-thumbs up on that. The bar, restaurant, front desk and every other crew that I can remember treated us in the best possible way. They would always greet us with smiles, hellos and “Have Fun!” The best was our stewardess. She did an excellent job of cleaning our rooms and making our beds twice a day. I mean who else is better than someone who makes our bed every morning? The excursions on the boat were convenient. But if you don’t want to pay that price, you can always take a risk and wait until you get off the boat and get bombarded by all the tour reps that are persuading you to join their tour or excursions. They are usually about $20-40 cheaper per person. The food was great. I don’t think I can ever do set time for dinner because my appetite is never steady. I can be hungry at 8 or not. Therefore, the freestyle allows me to eat whenever I want as long as it was before the last serving for the restaurants. Otherwise, you can always go to the buffet with is open 24 hours. The downside on the buffet is that they serve the leftovers from the daytime. Yet, still tastes good. During dinner, you can order as much starters, appetizers or main courses as you want, though it’s a pre-fixed menu. Every night they offer different types of food, so you don’t have to be worried eating the same food over and over again. The activities on the ship were great and well-organized. Due to the rough seas, we were not able to dock at Cayman Islands. Therefore, it was disappointing we had to stay at sea. During a dock day, the activities on board are minimal because everyone is on port. But considering that we had to stay onboard, the entertain crew instantly came up with activities to fill up the day. This cruise definitely was more than I have expected. I’m recommending everyone to NCL.

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Jan 1, 2005

Western Caribbean

We sailed on the NCL Sun on New Years Day of 2005 from Miami. The embarkation was wonderful. We were registered within 5 minutes & on the ship at Noon. We had a balcony room on Deck 9. It was spectacular. I loved the mats on the floor of the balcony & throughout the outside decks (prevents slipping). I also loved the rails on the balcony. We have always sailed on Royal Caribbean before & they have full glass panels blocking

the view if you are sitting down on the balcony. NCL Sun has a normal see thru rail. Wonderful views! The ship was very, very clean & all decorated for Christmas. We had some beautiful formal pictures with the XMas tree & all. The photography staff was wonderful. Gilbert took great care of us! The service on The Sun was the best ever! We never ever had to wait for a drink whether it be poolside at Sea days, or even at the shows. The service is non stop & always willing to please. The food was good. Some nights we didn't care for the main dining choices so we ate at The Bistro (French) their food was great! We all loved it! When we ate at the buffet some nights the food there was good as well. Occasionally we had some foods that were a little overcooked/dry. But for the most part no complaints at all. We all really enjoyed the free style experience. We chose when & where we wanted to eat. This is the best. Never had to wait, just walked in & were sat within 5 mins each time.There were only 4 of us but still we figured we'd have a wait sometimes & never did! The islands were great, we relaxed at each one & did our own thing. We shopped, took beach breaks & relaxed & saw the islands this time. In the past we have all always done excursions, so we tried it on our own this time & had a blast! The room stewards are the best. Very friendly, impeccable service anywhere you go on board & the Cruise Director Colin is hysterical. The shows were great, the dances & bingo were great & a ton of stuff to do on The Sun! Not enough time to do it all. Debarkation was the best we've ever had. Just walked off the ship & our luggage was there & went thru customs at the Miami pier. EASY! Our limo was there when we got outside & we were off! Negatives- At sea days we wished there were a few more activities to watch. We are used to the big Royal Caribbean ships & at sea days they are always doing something poolside. The Sun needs a few more activities than just the Mr Sexy Legs contest & more music playing also. They had a band that played (very good) but they only played for about an hour all day. (The other band (Zanzee band) played all over the ship & they were wonderful. A definate Stevie Nicks sound a like!) Also we wished there had been more strictness about the children using the hot tubs. They would invade all 4 hot tubs & us 4 adults could never get in them. Other complained about this while on board also.The pools were great though. All in all we all said we'd goon NCL again in the future. We love Royal Caribbean but this was a tie for sure! Don't miss it! The Sun was a great ship & I would highly recommend it to anyone! PS- The Sun's balcony rooms have more storage than any Royal Caribbean balcony rooms & also have Coffee pots!

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Dec 18, 2004

Exotic Western Caribbean

Let me begin by saying that reading some of these reviews was very helpful to us in selecting this cruise, which was our first. As first time cruisers, we were a little wary. My wife and I have traveled a lot in Europe, Africa, Central America, and South America, but we’ve always been very independent travelers, usually renting cars so that we could go when and where we wanted. I was concerned I might feel “trapped” on a ship, and

since I really don’t like crowds at all (especially crowds populated by many unruly children), I thought we might end of hating a cruise…but we didn’t. We selected the Norwegian Sun for several reasons: (1) it seemed to have larger staterooms that the competition, (2) we wanted a balcony and on the Sun there were plenty to choose from, and (3) the sailing dates and port of embarkation (Miami) was convenient. Now if you don’t want to read a lot, I can summarize everything here by saying the Norwegian Sun surpassed our expectations in every category. It is a well run ship, clean, comfortable, and generally well planned (with a few exceptions noted below). For those who want more detail, let me start at the beginning. Check In Our departure from Miami went very smoothly. Our daughter and son-in-law dropped us off at the dock where our suitcases were taken by a porter. We arrived at the dock a few minutes after noon. We had three fairly large suitcases, and tipped the porter $5, and he seemed to be pleased with that. We then went into a check-in line, and it only took a minute or two before they took our tickets, passenger information forms, and took our photograph for their on-board database. Because we had a mini-suite (stateroom 1005), we were given the VIP treatment and were personally ushered into a special area where we met the concierge, were given our stateroom keys, and were guided to the front of the line to pass through security. Security is similar to what you would find at an airport. In less than 20 minutes we were on the ship, having passed by the picture taking operation. (We just said “no, thanks.” No high pressure to be photographed.) Stateroom Our stateroom was one of the better class cabins on the ship, classified as a mini-suite, up on the 11th deck near the front of the ship. I did not see any of the lower staterooms, so I don’t know what ours had that others didn’t, but as I recall our mini-suite was only 10-15% more money than the lower categories, and it was very much worth the price difference. Anyway, the stateroom was larger than I had imagined, although I had the measurements ahead of time. What pleased us most was the well-designed storage and European-style lighting. The “dressing room” off the bathroom was also well designed, with plenty of closet space, a small dressing table and drawers as well. The balcony was quite adequate, and we spent a lot of time during the cruise sitting on our own balcony, especially when we wanted to get away from the crowds. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed the cruise half as much without a private balcony. I was pleased to find that all of our empty luggage could fit easily under the bed. I was a bit worried about storage space for luggage, but they have thought about that. The beds were comfortable and there were wonderful reading lights. The TV/desk area was very nice, and we had a mini-refrigerator, but the only thing it was used for was to store cream for the morning coffee. We probably would not have missed it if it weren’t there. I think we only had the TV on for an hour or two over the course of the entire week, but it worked fine and they did have some interesting programs on about ports of call and other ship information. CNN was available, but we made a point of not watching it. One thing I should mention about the TV is that is has a set of video and audio input jacks on the front, which we really appreciated as we were able to plug our digital camera and video camera into those jacks to look at the photos/video we had taken. So be sure to bring the cable that connects your cameras to video/audio input jacks! My wife commented on how nicely the cabin was decorated. All in all, it was very comfortable, and we probably spent 30% of the cruise (not counting sleeping time) in our cabin or on our balcony because it was so comfortable. We received fresh fruit and ice in our ice bucket in our cabin each day. Now a two negative things about the stateroom: (1) We never could get the thermostat set just right. There are no numbers on the thermostat…just arrows to indicate hotter or cooler. We’d get cold and set the thermostat higher and then soon we would be hot and move it to the blue area. Then we’d be cold and set it back to the red area… It seemed like there was a considerable lag between setting the thermostat and getting a temperature change, so it was very hard to get it “just right.” How nice it would be to have a digital thermostat that just held a specific temperature. (2) We were a little surprised that the more expensive staterooms were placed right under the Observation Lounge. It was very quiet during the day, but between 9:30 pm and about midnight each night, we could hear the music from the lounge above. We happen to be people who go to bed early and get up before dawn, so the music when we were trying to sleep was annoying. However, I usually carry foam earplugs when I travel, and they came to the rescue several times. Since the noise stopped usually about midnight, I really can’t complain too much, but I felt sorry for the people who had paid for the “owner’s suites” which are directly below where the band upstairs set up. Food We only expected “mediocre” food on the Sun because of some of the reviews we had read. All I can say is, I don’t know where people who complained about the food normally eat, but we found every meal to be just outstanding. In fact, we had planned to eat in a few of the “premium” restaurants, but we were so pleased with the Seven Seas that we never did. When we got on the ship Saturday, we had a quick lunch in the Garden Café buffet. That night we ate in the Pacific Heights restaurant (reservation required, but no extra charge). From that point on, we ate in the Seven Seas every meal, with about two exceptions. We were very satisfied with the variety, quality, and service. We never had to wait for a table—not once--and we always ate at a table for two (our choice). The food was generally served promptly, and it normally took us less than an hour to eat, including the starter, soup, main course, dessert, and coffee. Apparently from the ship’s statistics 90% of the meals on-board are served at the Garden Café buffet. Each to their own… We found the quality of food in the Seven Seas to be excellent. It was also more pleasant for us to sit down and have good table service and not have to go through a buffet line. The Garden Café makes sense if you are in a hurry, or if you prefer buffet dining. We ate there one morning when we had an early shore excursion in Belize, and the breakfast was fine with a lot of variety, but not nearly as elegant as in the main dining room. Why be in a hurry on a cruise? Enjoy lingering over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For us, it was one of the highlights of the cruise. Another thing is that we really didn’t want to gain a lot of weight, and there is a temptation going through a buffet line to pile your plate higher with food than you should—and then you feel some obligation to eat it. (Yes, Grandma—I’ll clean my plate.) The portions in the Seven Seas were just about right. We always could order more, if we wanted, but generally were satisfied with what they served. In fact, I noted that I had no compulsion to snack late at night. I knew there was food out there waiting for me, but I never went out to get any. (PS We still gained weight) Some have said the standard $10 a day per person they charge you automatically for tips discourages good service, but we only encountered good service everywhere we went on the ship. There was never a surly person. We really enjoyed chatting to some of the crew. There are young people on the crew (particularly in the service areas) from over 50 nations. We met quite a few from Romania and the Philippines. All very nice young people, and well trained. A word about “Freestyle:” It was perfect for us, as we could eat whenever we felt like eating. I can’t imagine any other way. Tip: We bought the “all you can drink” soft drink cards for about $28.00 a person. I don’t think I’d do that if I had to do it again. At $1.50 a can, for the same price we could have purchased about 5.5 cans of coke a day and kept them in our mini-refrigerator. That probably would have been enough and would be much more convenient. It was a hassle to have to go to the closest bar to “fill up.” If you do get the beverage card, when you go to fill up, tell them “no ice” or you’ll get a container that is half ice with about 6 ounces of coke. You always have ice in your stateroom to add. Entertainment Well, I said earlier that we tend to go to bed early and get up early, so we did not go to many of the evening shows. We did go to a couple near the end and were sorry that we did not discover Colin, the cruise director, earlier. He is from Scotland and is a natural comic. After we first saw him, I made a point to go to anything he was doing. He gave a little talk on disembarkation on the last day of the cruise. You wouldn’t think such a talk would be entertaining, but we laughed until tears rolled down our cheeks. He is great. What a find they have in him. Best advice I can give: go to a presentation Colin is giving on your first day on the ship. You won’t regret it. We enjoyed the shows that we did attend and there was a wide variety. The Christmas Show was fantastic. The Youth directors had organized the ship’s children to sing a few songs which was wonderful for the parents.. However, for us the major entertainment was the sound of the ocean outside our stateroom and the stars above…and of course, we did enjoy Colin. Oh…the captain can be entertaining, too—and I’m sure he knows Colin makes many jokes about him. (oops…maybe I shouldn’t have said that.) Ports of Call Grand Cayman We decided to stay on the ship. We anchored out in the bay and the seas were quite rough. We didn’t feel like riding a tender boat into shore to walk around in an area that didn’t look very interesting from the ship. So we enjoyed the day on the ship with fewer people around. There is plenty to do with so many facilities and services available to use. Honduras We took this cruise mostly to relax, so we only went on two shore excursions. In Roatan we booked the “Dolphin Encounter.” It was just about the most expensive shore excursion at $120 pp, but it was worth it. We had a good 30 minutes in the water with the dolphins, which was longer than advertised. Yes, you do get to touch, hold, caress, and kiss (yuk!) the dolphins. You are not allowed to use your own camera for the first 20 or so minutes, because they have (of course) their own photographers taking photos of you during that time. The trainers are giving you information about the dolphins and having your camera would be a distraction. However you can use your own camera during the last 10 minutes or so, and can take good photos during that time. I was afraid to bring my mini video camera, as I wasn’t sure that there would be a place to put it when I was in the water, but there was. So, if you do this, I would recommend you take your cameras along. At the end, they offer you copies of the photos they’ve taken at $10 each or $40 for a CD-ROM with all of them. We splurged on the CD-ROM and got 16 photos of about 5 megapixel quality. The only negative I’d mention about this shore excursion was that the guide who took us from the ship to the resort where they have the dolphins (on the other side of the island) was not really very good. He did not keep the group well informed as to what the schedule was, what was happening, etc. I didn’t think much about it until the next day when we had a truly outstanding guide. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the guide on the dolphin encounter. I should add it really doesn’t matter that much that he wasn’t very good as the important part is handled by the resort staff and dolphin trainers. The “guide” just leads you to the bus, from the bus to the resort, etc. Belize At Belize, we booked the “Lamanai & the New River Safari.” This was an all-day excursion that included lunch. The guide we had (“Mario”) was excellent. He went the extra mile to keep everyone informed about all the details along the way. You take a bus about 50 miles inland to the New River, get on a motor launch and go up the river. Mario captained the boat and did an excellent job of spotting and pointing out wildlife along the way. We had lunch when we got to the boat landing by the ruins, and it was very tasty food prepared by local people. We really enjoyed lunch. After lunch we walked to the ruins, which are very interesting in many ways. I won’t tell you about them here. If you go, hopefully you’ll have Mario, and he’ll explain all. Cozumel The ship docked at Cozumel most of the day and we got off for a while and walked through the shopping area (tourist trap) around the dock, but didn’t buy much. My wife bought a $2 onyx dolphin and I bought a $5 bottle of rum. The rest of the day we spent on the ship and enjoyed relative quiet. We actually were able to swim in the pool—my wife was the only one in the pool for a while, and I think there was only about a dozen people on the whole pool deck. Disembarkation Getting off the ship took longer than getting on the ship, but it was pretty well organized and I can’t complain. Any delay was caused by customs officers, which obviously is not with the control of NCL. Luggage was picked up promptly in the evening the night before returning, it was there where they said it would be, we got off the ship within 10 minutes of when we were scheduled to do so, the transportation to the Miami airport went smoothly. We had booked 3:15 pm flights, but were at the airport by 11:15, so we had a long wait. In the future I’d book a flight around 1:00 pm Summary In summary, we enjoyed it very much and thought we really got our money’s worth. We were pleased with the quality of food, the quality of the stateroom, and the level of service. My overall impression is that the ship is well organized and run. Even thought there were 2200 passengers on the cruise (about 700 of which were children) and 900 crew, only once or twice did I feel “crowded.” We did avoid the pool area, which was generally packed from 10 am until dinner time, except on port days. Only on occasion did we see kids running about unsupervised. Our stateroom was always quiet during the day and generally at night (with the exception of the music from the Observation Lounge noted earlier). I have a feeling we may have been spoiled having our first cruise on this ship. I suppose if we paid twice as much, we might find even better quality, but I was very satisfied with the whole experience and am now starting to shop around for my next cruise.

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Dec 18, 2004

Southern Caribbean

Cruisers Beware . . . Attention all future cruisers. . . I just returned from a 7 day cruise on the Norwegian Sun (12/18/04 - 12/25/04). Well where do I start? We arrived in Miami and upon walking up the gangway we noticed an elderly couple slowly walking up the gangway as well. The elderly man's wife was holding him

by one arm while he was clinging tightly onto the hand rail. As we approached them, I said "you needed a wheelchair". The elderly woman replied, they didn't have any available. I thought this was odd being it was only 10:30 a.m. and we were pretty much the first passengers boarding. Not acceptable. We entered the ship and to our surprise we found very tacky Christmas decorations - styrofoam figurines of snowman, reindeer, elfs, etc. I have sailed on several other ships during this time of year and they all have been very elegantly decorated with greenery, lights, etc. However, this was the worst I have ever encountered. They also had gingerbread houses throughout the ship that were picked at and looked horrible. People had broken the icicle icing off and had also taken candy off of it. They were very tacky and looked like something a child had made. Much to my surprise, the same decorations were out as we were leaving the ship to go home. We proceeded to our balcony cabin and found it to be nice although slightly smaller than other ships we have been on. Our cabin stewards were excellent. (The only part of the cruise that met our expectations). My parents had an outside cabin and found it to be extremely small. My mom went to the Purser's desk to see if they could be moved to a larger statemroom and they replied "the ship is full and there is nothing we can do. You will have to contact your travel agent regarding your complaints on the size of the stateroom". Overall, the cabins were nice and clean which is more than I can say for the rest of the ship. The ship seemed very run down only being put into service in 2001. The carpet was discolored througout most of the ship. The bathrooms and surrounding areas smelled strongly of sewer gas. I almost thought I was sitting near the lavatory on a plane it was so bad. Food was very poor. The "Free Style" experience. . . none of us cared for it. Norwegian advertised 9 Restaurants in which to dine, two of which serve the same menu, three of which charge a fee of $10 and up, one serving Asian food, one serving light style entrees', and of course the cafe serving a buffet. Service in the dining rooms was poor. On the first night of our cruise we went to the Four Seasons Restaurant and my chicken was cold, it took 2 1/2 hours to dine. Very, very slow serivce every night. I went to the Seven Seas Restaurant for breakfast and ordered pancakes, hashbrowns, and bacon all of which were cold and finally ended up going to the cafe for breakfast. If you are a seafood lover you pretty much have it made. Seafood appetizers, seafood soups, and seafood entrees'. I myself do not care for fish and found the menu very limited. If you prefer normal american foods, there were very few options available. They do have certain items that are available every night such as chicken but after getting cold chicken on the first evening, I wasn't going to do cold chicken again. I was very upset about the children's program on the Sun. I have a 10 year old daughter and there were very few things for her to do in the kids place. Usually on holiday sailings they expect to have more children aboard and have plenty of activities for the children. However, on the Sun this was the opposite. The days we were in port you had to pre-register the night before in order to have your children go to the kid's place the next day. To top it all off, they charged you $5.00 per hour in order for them to stay there while in port. So, if you are looking to have some "alone time" on your cruise forget it unless you want to pay to get it. I have been on several cruises in the past where my daughter did not want to leave the kid's room and on two occasions I left her in the kid's room and went ashore because she didn't want to leave. On the Sun. . . that is not an option unless you want to pay (while in port). Again, If you are planning on cruising on NCL . . . Cruiser Beware!!!!!

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Dec 11, 2004

Western Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Western Caribbean Nancy Zupancic This was a pre-Christmas family trip we decided last July to book it. We thought this would be an excellent way for us to get away on vacation and also have family time. We agreed we would go on the cruise as a Christmas gift to ourselves and not have a gift exchange. There were eight people in my family group and we have all previously sailed on NCL. I am not

a fan of the freestyle atmosphere, I do prefer more traditional cruising. Since we had such a diverse group of people we felt this might be the best way to go. In regards to mealtime, my brother does not like to dress up and we had no idea what time would be best for my nephew to eat etc, so freestyle it was. To give you some background the family group is made up of my brother Mark, his wife Cathy and 11 year old son Nicholas. My two sisters Paula and Lisa, and the two gems of the clan, my mother, Claire and her sister, Mary. My father passed away a few years ago and he got us started in a long cruising career in 1984. We all felt him there in spirit. I think he somehow leads us to those great itineraries. The western Caribbean was especially of interest to me because I love to scuba dive and of course, these are all diving ports. PRE-CRUISE TORONTO TO MIAMI THURSDAY, DECEMBER 09, 2004 If there is one piece of advice I could give anyone, it would be to ‘stay pre and post cruise’. If at all possible, this has always been the best decision we have ever done. We used to embark the same day we flew in and left right after the cruise and we always felt so tired and rushed. Doing the pre and post cruise stay just adds enough time to extend the cruise and make it so much more enjoyable. So we made this 7 day cruise a 10 day by staying in Miami. I love Miami! It has a lot to offer. If you didn’t stay pre or post cruise you would miss out on a beautiful port city. It is so diverse, you can go to the beach, experience the nightlife of South Beach, walk around downtown, or even go to the everglades. Again, since we have a diverse group of all ages, we decided to stay centrally downtown at the Miami Hyatt Regency. We all liked the location because it had a lot of options for things to do. We left Thursday afternoon from Toronto and arrived at the Miami airport just around 6pm. We decided to eat at the BK right there at the airport so we could get to the hotel and relax. We were aware to not take too long to get to the baggage carousel so our bags wouldn’t be left unattended. When we got to the carousel there was an NCL counter right there, so you can ask them about tours when in Miami or how much/how long it takes to get to the various hotels or the pier. We found this very handy. The gentleman told us it would be $25 to go to the Hyatt per car and for 8 people with luggage we would need 3 cars. So we were looking at $75 for our group. It is 8 miles from the airport to the Hyatt, you can find directions on the Miami Hyatt website. At the baggage carousel all the claimed bags had been picked up by their owners, some of ours were lying around – and some weren’t! We noticed some were still outside on the conveyor belt. We quickly went over to the lost luggage counter to ask them to start up the belt. By absolute chance we came in contact with this wonderful porter, his name escapes me. He got the belt started, got his big cart and loaded the luggage on. He then said he knew a great driver, we would have to call him but we could all fit on the same bus. We liked this idea and he said he would help us contact him. We loved the fact we could all go together in the same bus. So we wanted to wait for him to come pick us up vs. taking the available transportation. We spoke to the porter he told us of a bunch of things we could enjoy while in town and then Edgar arrived with the bus. We thanked the porter for helping us with the bags as well as the new contact. We gave him his payment and we were on our way to the Hyatt. This is one of the things I just love about traveling is the variety of people who come into your life. Some not so good and others that really make you to feel good about the human race again. Edgar Herrera of FLORIDA TRANSTOURS really made our stay in Miami extra special. He offers tours and transportation for groups of 6 to 26 or more. He did everything for us and he was really reliable. He gave us his cell phone number in case he was held up or in if we wanted to change our plans. He always arrived with a smile on his face. He picked us up at Miami international Airport and took us to the Hyatt. We also arranged for him to pick us up and take us to the pier after our pre cruise stay. Then he picked us up from the pier after the cruise and took us on a tour of the Everglades and then back to the hotel. At the very end of our stay he picked us up once again and took us back to the airport. You can see where meeting him really streamlined our stay. He speaks multiple languages Spanish, Italian, French, German and eloquent English. He will organize any tour you are interested in whether it is to the Everglades, a driving tour of the Miami neighborhoods or on a boat cruise of the waterways. We really liked him and we loved the fact our family had our own private bus when we otherwise would have been split up in different cars. His rates we very reasonable and not only were we together but it even turned out to be cheaper to go with Edgar than it would have to take separate cabs to our destinations. Florida Trans Tours www.floridatranstours.com. E-Mail ftt@floridatranstours.com Phone 786-423-8560 Miami Hyatt Regency 400 South East Second Avenue Miami, Florida, USA. 33131-2197 Telephone: +1 305 358 1234 www.hyatt.com The staff at the hotel was very friendly. I don’t have many negatives other than it was really busy. We expected this because it is attached to the convention centre and the hotel has 612 rooms. You must plan check out and getting your luggage downstairs accordingly. There was this woman absolutely freaking out at the elevators because it was taking so much time to get the bags downstairs. I don’t know who she thought she was ragging at because none of us cared she was late. This is a real pet peeve of mine, that people call the bell desk 10 minutes before the bus leaves and think they are the only ones that are checking out. It was the ship hotel for both Carnival and Royal Caribbean. While we were there on the weekdays there was also a huge conference. Keep this in mind when making your decisions, it is not quiet nor quaint. It is a downtown location with downtown noise. The staff is great and it is very convenient. I saw some complaints regarding the rooms on previous posts but I thought they were very comparable to a hotel that size and the price they are charged at. We stayed pre and post cruise at the Hyatt so we stayed in two separate locations of the hotel. Most rooms if not all the rooms have balconies, which I really liked. We had a room overlooking the convention center, the huge Bank of America tower and the front of the hotel the first time. The second time we had a view of the pool, the Miami river and way in behind we could even see some ships in port. Obviously the higher the floor the better the view. We requested a higher floor both stays but it seems the non-smoking rooms are on the lower floors so you must ask accordingly. If it were up to me I would have put up with the smell of hotel room stale smoke for a great view. Of course, this is not up to me since many of my family members have allergies to smoke. I felt the staff tried to accommodate our requests of a nice view and all of us being on the same floor together. The room configuration with the king size bed was much nicer. We had three in our room so we had to have two double beds. One of the most convenient things I felt was the ability of the Metro Mover public transportation system. It had three main routes (that I noticed), the Omni, Brickell and the Inner loop that serves most of the downtown core and we used it all the time. It was free and the inner loop operated 24 hours a day. We took it a few stops to the Bayside Marketplace the station was called ‘College/Bayside’. We also used it for getting out for meals and shopping. There was a station beside the Clarion Suites & hotel adjacent to the Hyatt and there was a station across the street from the Hyatt in the Knight Center. The Hyatt was connected to this station you didn’t have to go outside. Between the Bayfront Park station and the 1st Street station there was a Walgreens across the street from a Marshalls in an area of Little Havana that offered a lot of small cafes and cheaper food alternatives that looked great. Just out front of the Bayfront Park station there was ‘Ross’ and a City Bank with an ATM. I think the Metro Mover might have been my nephew’s favorite part of Miami. We were always in a group so we were quite comfortable using it, but after 11pm I may have been a bit more cautious. We did find that most of the ‘tourist area’ stations had uniformed security or police visible. I must add they were a really great bunch as well. So we weren’t too concerned. If we were coming home from a Nightclub later on in the wee hours I would take a cab. The Intercontinental, the Hyatt Regency and the Clarion Suites were all hotels I saw right on the Metro Mover line. The Sheraton was across the river from the Hyatt could also be handy to the MM. The Bayside Marketplace was a worthwhile stop for some casual shopping and eating. One side is more the casual chains such as Sketchers, Foot Locker, The Gap, Guess, Bath & Body Works and the Sharper Image and similar. The other end was more like a stationary market that sold souvenirs and costume jewelry. In the middle there was Hooters, Bubba Gump’s, Hard Rock Café and a food court. We went to Bubba Gump’s and it was enjoyable and reasonably priced. The appetizers were large enough to be meal and there was something for everyone. The following dishes were enjoyed by my family; penne and seafood pasta, the ‘bucket of trash’, calamari, there was an appetizer that you could get either with chicken or shrimp that came with a mango salsa that was fabulous! The Caesar and the ‘Run Forrest Run’ salads were really good as well. EMBARKATION Edgar picked us up at the hotel and we embarked on Saturday about noon and it was pretty painless. Miami may be the largest cruise ship port in the world but they have a lot of infrastructure and everything down to a science. The other ships in port with us were the Carnival Triumph, Voyageur Of The Seas, Navigator Of The Seas. CONFISCATION OF ALCOHOL Yes they will take your alcohol when boarding the ship. You may go pick it up on the last day of cruise. We aren’t big drinkers but we do like to enjoy our time away. I like to have drink at the pool and wine with dinner, of course, this is purchased from the cruise line. The other thing I like is to have Bailey’s on the balcony either with my morning coffee or after a shore excursion or sail away. In the pre-cruise documentation they do say no alcohol is allowed on board and I had had prior warning from the CC boards. Every cruise line I have been on notes this in the documentation yet none of them seems to act on it. We figured we would take our chances and take the Bailey’s. Yes, they took it right away. And we felt like children at summer camp more than adults going on a cruise. They claim they do this to control the intake of liquor on board which is an absolute falsity! I saw more drunk people on this cruise than any of my prior 14 cruises. They just want you to buy the alcohol from them and this is fine – just admit it. On Royal Caribbean & Celebrity you may buy bottles of liquor to be consumed in the staterooms on board and NCL should do this. I have read on the CC boards (which I wish I had read before I left) that you can pre-order a bar set up for your room. I love this idea. In fact I don’t mind buying the liquor from NCL, I actually find it bothersome to drag it with us in our carry on bags. I would just wish they would mention this in the documentation and not pretend it is to control the drinking on board. The number you can use to NCL to order your bar set up is 1-866-625-1159 - they will charge your card about a week before you sail. I got this from the very helpful CC boards after I already was back home, so I cannot comment on it. But I will be using it in the future as I think it is an excellent idea. DISEMBARKATION NCL has this idea of freestyle disembarkation. I didn’t find anything freestyle about it. Yes, you could choose the time you wanted to leave of the choices available, if, there were any tags left. They will give out as many colored tags as you need for the time slot you choose, this can be nice except for the fact that once the tags are gone, so is the timeslot. So others are out of luck. Go early and get the time slot you need but only take the number of tags you need. Once we were outside the pier area and we were waiting for Edgar in our pre-arranged spot. I looked down and on the ground blowing at the curb was a computer report of every passenger name, country of nationality, stateroom number, PASSPORT NUMBER for our sailing. There it was all our information and everyone else’s blowing in the wind. I was livid!! My sister marched it over to the security to inquire why our information was lying around. You could tell the head of security was surprised when my sister produced it. Security had the audacity to blame it on the porters saying they need to match the passenger names to the staterooms. I felt this excuse was garbage. How dare she pin it on them and secondly, why do they need a report with our full names, nationality and passport number. They make us give that to them and promise they have secure measures then I find this!! Then the security woman tried to make light of it and said she has to give her social security number to doctors for insurance purposes, I’m from Canada and we certainly do not do that. But I’m sure the doctor’s you must give it to keep it secure. THE SHIP The ship was wonderful and had a good layout. The décor wasn’t flashy and not overdone just beautiful. I can’t even think of anything that would be negative, everything regarding the ship was positive. The kids Korner and kiddie pool I thought was pretty cool, NCL certainly caters to kids and the needs of your kids. We had two cabins with balconies on the 8th deck and one ocean view room on the 5th deck. They rooms we had were all the generally the same. The rooms were very well laid out I found it a bit too cozy for three but it was functional. Obviously, I just packed too much! I found we could always find a chair at the pool. They seemed to keep the ‘chair hogs’ at bay. They mentioned you could not keep a lounge chair saved for more than 20 minutes unoccupied and after that you could remove the belongings or they would be removed. I never even saw others removing people’s belongings because there seemed to be somewhere to sit. This was the first time I felt there was enough chairs especially on a Caribbean cruise. Of course, there is never enough time. I didn’t get a chance to check out more of the ship’s offerings or enough of the specialty restaurants or the shows and activities. I only made one show and it was very good. The Jean Ann Ryan Company always does an excellent job. RESTAURANTS & FOOD Overall the food served was very good. I found that there was a lot of choices offered and I could always find something of interest. I also found they tried to add a little extra than the regular North American fare such as selections from India and other parts of Asia and the Caribbean. They had an Indian station at the buffet that many people seemed to be enjoying. Generally I avoid buffets, even at home I don’t really enjoy them. If I feel the area is well taken care of I am comfortable with the offerings. Usually the problem I have is selecting the correct portions and take options that are healthier vs. what I want to eat. NCL provided hand sanitizers around the buffet areas and there seemed to be staff manning many of the areas and it was very appetizing. I had no problem with the cleanliness of the buffet areas. I only ate at the Garden Café once, right after embarkation and the selections were good. Sometimes for a late lunch after getting back from the shore excursions we ate at the Great Outdoor Café and they had great snacks, hot dogs, burgers and NCL really makes good pizza. We usually went to the Seven Seas Restaurant vs. the Four Seasons mainly because it was closer to our rooms and we also felt it was less busy. The notable servers we had were Servette and Jennifer in the Seven Seas and Crispin in the Four Seasons. As I mentioned before at breakfast lunch and dinner there were many choices much more than on Princess. Another thing I liked was that they offered cappuccino, espresso and a selection of great teas. All of these tasted excellent. It’s the little touches I like such as they bring a full pot of tea when you order tea, not a cup with a bag or those horrible metal containers that spill when you pour. I also love that they offer cappuccino and that they sprinkle cinnamon or chocolate on the top. When Princess started charging for espresso and when you order earl grey or china black tea you got regular orange pekoe but not on NCL and I really liked it. I didn’t get to try as many specialty restaurants as I would have liked. I read some poor reviews of the Pacific Heights on the boards before I left but I would have tried them anyway. The décor was very subtle and I thought very comfortable looking and enjoyable. I heard good things of Il Adagio. Las Ramblas looked wonderful and I love the idea of tapas. We always intended on going and never got up there. The week flew by very fast. Ginza, the Japanese restaurant on board with the cook tables and sushi bar also looked great. The night we went to Le Bistro we checked out Las Ramblas, East Meets West and Ginza and I would have like to have gone to them all. They were not busy at all so even if you think you should make a reservation and haven’t try to get in anyway. They seemed to be taking walking-ins. Generally I think Le Bistro needs a reservation. It was very busy throughout the night we were there. This was hands down our favorite meal on the trip and well worth it. The menu in Le Bistro is very similar to the formal night menu but it seems to be served and presented 'the way it should be'. Treat yourself and get the lobster. Other excellent items were escargot, caesar salad, the spinach salad was even better and of course, the chocolate fondue for dessert. My mom’s favorite was the sea bass. She said it was melt in your mouth and the sauce complemented it well. I want to make this clear for the specialty restaurants you need to make reservations. However, if you didn’t make them and feel like trying them out, with the exception of perhaps Le Bistro, the specialty restaurants were not as busy as I would have expected. We were onboard the week before Christmas and the ship was full. Give these restaurants a try! We usually enjoy room service for breakfasts on days we are in port as well as for snacks or late lunches after coming in from port. NCL was consistently on time and food was excellent. If you ordered room service from the breakfast menus the night before they always made a wake up call when it was on the way and it was consistently on time. The sandwiches and pizza were really good. For breakfast we usually had coffee, orange juice, melon. Bagels were not on the menu but I asked for one each time and they brought it I also really liked the muffins they had. REFLECTIONS OF NCL I will say I was not happy with finding the report with the passenger list and all of our personal passport information on the ground outside the cruise terminal area. But that will be a matter I will take up with NCL. I have been on three previous cruises with NCL. Two prior to freestyle cruising and now two with freestyle. Freestyle is not my favorite and I’m not sold on it, however, for this family trip we felt it would work best and it did. Everyone enjoyed themselves and NCL gave us a fine product. I must admit there are things I like about more traditional cruising and NCL has been at the bottom of our list. Well I feel a lot different after this cruise on the Sun. Freestyle works very good on these ships that were designed with freestyle in mind. The staff is so friendly and makes you feel important, they want you to enjoy your holiday. I love how they all get up on stage at the last show and sing for everyone. That is a nice touch. I noticed a lot of nice touches. They gave a vase of flowers on the breakfast room service tray, the complementary espresso, cappuccino and teas at every meal in the main dining rooms. I do not like that Princess makes you pay for these I feel that is nickel and diming. When you ordered tea NCL gave a nice big pot and the specialty coffee was excellent. Regarding the shore excursions I must say I have never had a complaint on the NCL excursions. Something that was very thoughtful was the day in Roatan someone in our party went on the Tabyana Beach Party and snorkel excursion. She got some money back because the snorkeling wasn’t good because of the weather. Now we know going in they cannot control the weather and I would never complain to the tour operator based on bad weather. The fact that NCL just gave a credit for some of the amount paid to reimburse for the snorkeling I found they stand behind their product. I have been on both Celebrity and Princess shore excursions where the excursions didn’t even go as advertised (the tour boat on Princess broke down and we had to come back and on Celebrity we didn’t have a tour guide on a tour to a museum in Russia). Both times the cruise line couldn’t have cared less and they had our money and that is all they cared about. But I really feel NCL stands behind what they offer now more than ever. NCL has moved up in the ranks of our more favorite cruise lines after this voyage. I think everyone going on the NCL Sun would enjoy it. They really offer a good vacation to a varied demographic. I really felt they cared which is very important to me when spending my travel dollars. I have all the freestyle dailies I cannot scan them in to make documents, but if you have a particular question I can look up something for you. Post a reply on this thread or email me if you want. PORTS & SHORE EXCURSIONS GRAND CAYMAN, CAYMAN ISLANDS MONDAY, DECEMBER 13TH 2004 480 Miles south east of Miami. ARRIVE-ANCHOR 8AM TO 3PM We arrived at 8am and the other ships in port with us were Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration, Splendour OT Seas & Veendam. The day was pleasant at 80 degrees and partly cloudy. All the scuba diving was cancelled. The excursions through the ship as well as anything through the dive shops. Nobody was quite sure why, it didn’t look that bad. I guess there may have been a heavy surge or something. In the main town of Georgetown, there was not much visible damage from hurricane Ivan. They had a sign at that said “Ivan has gone but we are still here”. That made me a little emotional. In the main centre where obviously there is a lot of money, they have re-built very fast. This area appeared to be business as usual. But once you traveled away from Georgetown the damage was evident. Anything that had a tin roof was pulled and turned like a can of opened sardines or torn off completely. Strip malls I remembered from previous trips, were gone or looked like they were just being newly constructed. Debris and piled up bushes and brush were all over areas that were previous very manicured. It was emotional to remember how beautiful it once was, however, I know they will recover and be just as beautiful once again! We were all going on the ship’s stingray city tour. Normally I would not go on the ship’s tour I would book a private excursion. In this case, we did not even know if we were going there for sure so I didn’t want to have to contact the tour company and cancel. This way, if the ship wasn’t going, our excursion would be cancelled by the ship. The other factor was we were also not there a full day. Since we had to be back on a tender at 2-2:30pm and stingray city is quite far I didn’t want to worry about this. The ship’s tour was fine there actually was not as much of a cattle boat as I was expecting. We had plenty of time with the stingray’s and the 2 handlers on our boat made sure everyone who wanted to feed or hold the stingray’s got to do so. As it was, hardly any people actually did want to feed or hold them. Some people didn’t even get off the boat. One of the handlers, Ed brought my nephew back to boat because he was terrified by the stingrays, so my sister- in -law and I somehow became in charge of the stingray feed. These stingray’s recognize the bucket the food is in and they all came running, or should I say swimming. I had been there before but they did not let us feed them, this time I was feeding those stingray’s all kinds. At some point I would have two climbing up my front and one climbing on my back! I just love sea creatures so I was not worried about them harming me I was more concerned to not hurt them. I think they are marvelous and I love stingray city. The fact still remains that you pay more for the ship tour and they are crowded. But if you feel more comfortable with the ship’s tour, take it vs. missing out on the stingrays. I did notice one big catamaran called ‘the Buccaneer’ from my research. That one looked good and it was a nice vessel. There were even many stingray tours being offered at the pier so you could go last minute if needed. You must make sure if you want to go to the area that is only 3-4 feet of water that is called the ‘sandbar’ there are areas of stingray city that you can snorkel or scuba dive and it is in about 15 feet. My boss went to the deeper area on a last minute trip booked on the pier and they just snorkeled while the handlers feed the stingrays. So keep this in mind so you get what you want. The other thing I was told from our tour operators are the stingrays are more relaxed as the morning goes on because they are fed more – makes sense. They are still hungry but earlier in the morning they may be more aggressive. So again, which ever you prefer. We went on the 10am tour so they were already very well feed, they were still very hungry but they were not aggressive by any means. I am wondering if that was why the last time they wouldn’t let us feed them because I remember it was very early in the morning. The sandbar is very crowded so much more than the last time I went, but I was pleasantly surprised that there were so many stingrays, more than enough to go around. We had enough time do some shopping before we went on the excursion. The only thing I had to get was Tortuga rum and my brother and his wife love the rum cake. If you buy the rum approx $7.95 or 8.95 or buy it with a cake for approx $20-$25. They will deliver it to the ship. If you are just buying the rum cake you must bring it on the tour with you. There were quite a few rum cakes going on the boat to stingray city. As for the rest of the shopping, depending what you are interested in they offer all the regular duty free shops in the Caribbean and they are all around the pier area in Georgetown. ROATAN, HONDURAS TUESDAY, DECEMBER 14TH 2004 ARRIVE-DOCK 9AM ANCHOR 11AM-LAST TENDER AT 5:30PM SAIL AWAY AT 6PM 353.6 nautical miles from Grand Cayman The other ships in port with us were the Seaborne Legend and NCL Sea. We docked at the pier until about 11am when the NCL Sea comes into port. Then the Sun went out and used the tenders for the rest of the day. The Sea goes to Roatan year round while the Sun only goes during the main winter tourist season. While in Roatan, the thing to do is to get out and enjoy the island. The port town of Coxen Hole is interesting but not very picturesque. I would imagine it is the worst part of Roatan. It is fairly poor and there are a few houses but mostly impoverished housing complete with open sewers. If you go on any tour you will get a drive through Coxen Hole so you won’t miss out. We all took ship excursions this day. My mom and aunt went on a half day island tour. They seemed to go all over the place. It was probably over priced as most (all) shores excursions are, but they got out and saw a lot of areas including going out on a boat to see a ship wreck and they enjoyed it. My brother and his wife and son went to swim with the dolphins in the morning and then to Tabyana beach in the afternoon. Paula went on the Tabyana beach party and snorkel. Tabyana reminded of me very much of the beaches and offerings you would see on a cruise ship private island. A very nice beach with countless beach chairs and a barbeque. The dolphin swim was at Anthony’s Key Resort. All of them really liked their day. My sister and I went scuba diving everyday except Cayman. The question is always “to go or not to go with the ship’s excursion”. After finding out that the ship used AKR (Anthony’s Key Resort) we decided to go with the ship. I would like to go to Roatan on a dive trip and AKR is somewhere I would like to stay so I wanted to check it out. On the excursion there was 24 people from the ship going on this excursion. They transferred us to the resort on a bus then we boarded two boats The Stingray and The Albacore. We were on the Albacore, they didn’t have a system of who went on what boats it seemed those of us at the front of the bus went on the Albacore. They were both beautiful Pro 48s. The albacore had 9 and the Stingray had about 15. The dive groups were about 4 or 5 people each. The ocean was rough the day we were visiting. All the regular reefs usually visited were not that good so they took us on the other side of Roatan. These reefs were on the same side where the ships were but we did not dive near the ships. The water on that side was like glass. The first dive site was Pablo’s Place at about 80 feet for 30 minutes. It had beautiful corals huge sponges, a few huge lobsters and a very tame french anglefish that spent the safety stop with us. The second dive site was called Keyhole named after the formations in the reef. This was a drift dive over a beautiful reef. It was an easy 70 feet for 45 minutes. The main draw for me was a large grouper, again some great coral and sponges. This area was gorgeous. I am eager to make a return trip to see the other side of the island where the main dive sites are located. Once we finished our dives we went back the ship and we were tired and hungry so we just relaxed and didn’t go back into Coxen Hole. We watched the sunset from the balcony and just after that the ship set sail for Belize. BELIZE CITY, BELIZE WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15TH 2004 ARRIVE-ANCHOR 8AM LAST TENDER LEAVES AT 4:30PM SAIL AWAY AT 5PM 353.6 nautical miles from Roatan (interesting how that was the same figure given from Cayman to Roatan! I’m now questioning their validity) Belize has a lot of reefs along the coast. It makes up part of the second largest barrier reef in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Therefore when the ship is at anchor, you can barely see Belize. Huge speed boat type tenders whisk you in and it still takes about 20 minutes. These factors made the decision to choose the ship’s excursion easier. Again we took the certified scuba excursion. They pick you up right at the ship and you are then on your way to the dive shop. We also knew the ship used Huge Parkey’s Belize Dive Connection and we really enjoyed it. The excursion was to the Turneffe Atoll which was an hour boat ride from the ship. The weather wasn’t completely cooperating as a cold front came into Miami the day we left and seemed to follow us for the entire cruise. If the weather was better the boat ride to the Atolls would have been glorious, but for us it was windy but fun! Just as the day before we had two boats (pro 48s), they were big, fast and very comfortable. It was the kind of dive day I love having lots of crew looking after you, a beautiful, comfortable boat with lots of space for everyone and everyone’s stuff. They even put on your fin’s for you when you approached the platform with your tank on…I loved that! On our boat there was about 15 divers plus the crew so we went out with three groups of six. Our dive leader ‘Phil’ was excellent and very excited about showing us good stuff. The first dive site was called Jojo’s split named after a favorite spot of Hugh’s son Jojo. This was a big wall drop we went 75 feet for 45 minutes. At the end of the dive there were three huge black grouper feeding in the currents. They let us stay down as long as our air allowed and we didn’t all ascend when the first person ran low, they went back to the boat alone. However, we did have one who sucked up their air really fast (there’s always one) it seemed just a few minutes into the dive he was already at 1500 psi. Phil was a little pissed because he wanted to take us further down to this coral formation and we had to stay closer to the boat then expected, but this was safer and was not the fault of the dive op. I am commenting on this because I know there are a lot of questions regarding ‘does the whole group have to ascend when the first person runs out of air’ and Hugh Parkey’s dive op DMs would swing around to the boat when someone was running low but the others still continued. The second dive was named after a woman who was the wife of a resort owner her name was Lee Ellen. They told us she returned from a trip ‘enhanced’. The dive site was called ‘LeeEllen’s melons’ this was because there were numerous round barrel sponges. OK guys – very funny! This dive was 60 feet for 45 minutes. We saw a southern stingray in the sand. This dive was also along a beautiful wall drop. Hugh Parkey's Belize Dive Connection PO Box 1818 Belize City, Belize, Central America Tel: 501-223-4526 Toll Free: (888) 223-5403 -Fax: 501-227-8808 E-mail: hugh@belizediving.com After our great dives and a nice (but windy) ride back to the ship, we had just enough time to at least take the tender in and back. We dumped off our gear and headed for the tenders. It was great, we were the only passengers going into town. Belize was the gem of the trip. I loved it so much I would seriously consider living there. The people were warm and friendly and they all seemed to say ‘comeback to Belize and stay for a longer vacation’. This seemed to be their national slogan, but it was very welcoming. We bought some t-shirts and the requisite trinkets right there at the small market at the pier. Here we bought some excellent coffee. Really dark arabica beans, it was excellent! Belize City looked like a nice size and I thought the pier and bay area was very pretty with a lot more tourist infrastructure than I was expecting. Of course the outer islands, cays & reefs are the real jewels of Belize. The other ships in port with us were the Carnival Legend, Splendour Of The Seas & NCL Sea. COZUMEL, MEXICO THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16TH 2004 ARRIVE-DOCK 8AM ALL ON BOARD 6:30 SAIL AWAY AT 7PM 211 nautical miles from Belize and 528 nautical miles from Cozumel back to Miami I read countless positive posts on the great service provided with Eagle Ray Divers so we booked our day in Cozumel with them. They are so many dive ops to choose from in Coz that this would be an example where we would not book with the ship. I contacted Chellie at Eagle Ray and we organized a day where Lisa and I could dive and Paula could snorkel. This way we could all go together and Paula can see where she needs to get certified, because diving is so much better than snorkeling. Unfortunately, Chellie did not prove this point that well since Paula was the only snorkeler and she had the most beautiful model-esque snorkel guide all to herself! After meeting Oscar on the boat I wanted to snorkel too! That day I’m not sure if the true beauty of Cozumel was under the water or above the water. Our first dive was a wall dive at the Palancar Caves. We went to a max depth for a few minutes at 102 feet to see this huge eagle ray that gliding below us. Then most of the dive was about 85-90 feet for 44 minutes. We went through some amazing ‘caves’ (more like swim-thrus). This was probably the best dive site I have been to for both animals and topography. It was like a playground (jungle gym) for divers. We went through many caverns and beside seeing the eagle ray, we saw lobster, crabs, banded coral shrimp, hawkesbill turtle and a lot of grouper. Fantastic! The second dive Las Palmas was 60 feet for 50 minutes, excellent dive over a sandy bottom spotted with patches of coral. Excellent, excellent!! So many animals. We saw five really cool toadfish that are endemic to Cozumel. We saw jewfish, huge anemones, small nudibranchs, big anglefish, trunkfish & really colorful coral. We saw one eel that was out and swimming along the reef, Benjamin couldn’t resist picking it up. We saw almost everything on the fish identification card! Our boat was the ‘estrelle del mar’ (star of the sea) is was very charming and comfortable. It looked like a converted fishing boat, it had plenty of room for all our stuff and to lounge around. We had a full boat that day and it was busy. I read some posts about Coz diving not being that good anymore. Well I don’t know what it used to be like but I will put it at the top of my list (tied with Bora Bora) and that is a tough act to be compared to. Chellie was a pleasure to deal with and they offer snorkel trips (you may luck out and get Oscar) and discover scuba. They would be a great bunch to do your first dives with. The other boat they had was doing discover scuba that day and we spoke with a guy who has been ‘discovering’ scuba with them about 6 times. www.EagleRayDivers.com Chellie and Antonio Castellanos chellie@eagleraydivers.com or antonio@eagleraydivers.com 011-52-987-872-5735 phone/fax The other ships is port were as follows: Carnival Miracle, Navigator Of The Seas, Grand Princess Splendour Of The Seas were docked four beside each other at the International Pier (newer one) Voyageur Of The Seas was there but I can’t remember if it was at anchor or not. The Veendam, Sea Dream II and us (NCL Sun) were at the Punta Langosta Pier the Carnival Sensation was at anchor next to us. The Punta langosta Pier was very close to downtown. This pier had a big pavilion offering tons of shops, Senor Frogs, Carlos ‘n Charlies, it seemed after our day on the turquoise sea we only had time to go to the shops near the pier. As it turned out, that is all we needed. We usually go get everything at Cinco Soles they have everything we need and it is very conveniently displayed. It may be more expensive but I never find anything really over priced. My favorite purchase was a silver chain with a scuba diver pendant. Hope you find my information helpful and that you have as great a cruise as we always do!  

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Nov 13, 2004

Western Caribbean

We left Little Rock on November 12, a day prior to the cruise, having made our own arrangements for air travel. I got a queasy feeling when trying to print our boarding passes at home before leaving for the airport – I called the airline, learned our USAir flight was delayed and we wouldn’t make our connecting flight into Miami. Rather than putting us on a late evening flight, we were re-routed on American and arrived in Miami early

evening only about an hour later than our original arrival time. I hoped that the air problem would be our only glitch, not a precursor of future problems, and I was glad we had ample time to make other arrangements ahead of time rather than getting bad news at the airport. We stayed at the Best Western Inn on the Bay. For about $89 (plus taxes) the package included airport pickup (had a ½ hour wait because the driver had just left the airport), the typical free breakfast, and morning transportation to the Port of Miami. The hotel is nothing special and the breezeways could use a good cleaning, but there are several good restaurants within walking distance including Oggi, Benihana, and Roger’s, the latter of which we chose and can highly recommend (the mahi mahi with lobster mashed potatoes and the grilled tuna sandwich were outstanding.) Hotels near the airport could probably be obtained for less, but I was concerned with noise and wanted to have at least a little flavor of Miami. We were given the choice of leaving for the port at either 11:00 or noon, and we chose the earlier departure, which worked out nicely. The van was packed with Canadians and Americans sharing prior cruise experiences who were now ready to board the Sun. At the port we were checked in immediately (ID’s and key cards were processed) and had very little wait time in the “holding pen” atmosphere. (Note that construction is in progress at the port.) During boarding, my husband declined having our photo taken and it was not a problem. In fact, the couple behind us followed in our footsteps! Walking onto the ship we became acquainted with the antiseptic bubble for cleaning hands – no complaints there, knowing that such precautions are necessary! We booked a balcony room and it was well worth it! Our room on deck 10, mid-ship was spacious, had plenty of storage, and included such amenities as 110/220 volt plugs, coffee maker, a safe for valuables, shampoo and liquid soap in shower, and two deck chairs on the balcony. Our luggage arrived before 1:30, and we immediately unpacked and made ourselves at home by attacking the buffet on deck 11, the pool deck. Before we knew it, the ship was sailing away – time for the cast-off party barbeque where drinks were being pushed from all directions! Buying beer in the returnable helmets was the best buy with six for the price for one. Be sure to save your ticket for the helmet deposit to get credited for its return. Excursions The ship stopped at the Cayman Islands, Roatan Island (Honduras), Belize, and Cozumel. At Georgetown Cayman Islands we booked a local tour of the island at the pier. There was not much to see there; the most interesting aspect was the rebuilding from the hurricanes the prior month. I was disappointed and found the flat landscape unappealing. Some people we knew went snorkeling on the beach that is walking distance from the pier. They reported that it was very nice with quite an array of fish species. In Roatan I visited the Sante Wellness Center and Day Spa, which I found on the Internet. At the pier we were met by a driver and rode about 30 minutes to the spa located at Parrot Tree Plantation, one of the loveliest places on the island, quite a contrast to the poverty seen everywhere. I scheduled a full massage, salt scrub and wrap; my husband simply enjoyed reading on the deck and exploring the area. We ate a delicious lobster and pasta lunch there. Sante’s prices were much more reasonable than the ship spa, and we got to see the island and meet friendly people. Belize. Prior to arriving in Belize, we met two other couples during dinner who, after hearing about the cave tubing trip, decided they would also like to try it. Rather than book through NCL ($95), we went together and took our chances of finding someone at the dock to take us. This approach worked very well. At the pier there were plenty of excursion offers, and George, the haggler among us, talked a guide, Vincent, into the trip for $55 each, excluding lunch. We somehow survived the van ride to Jaguar Paw, a miracle considering the driving speed and road conditions. (I believe we were trying to beat the large tour busses, which we did.) We changed, got our tubes and headlights and hiked 30 minutes through the rain forest (partial downpour and nasty mosquitoes). But once we got to the river and into the caves, our efforts really paid off! The interior beauty, natural formations, and play of azure light on the walls and water cannot be described. Vincent stayed with us, maintaining our safety in some tricky situations. It was over too soon and we were back in town before we knew it. I was glad we skipped lunch in the jungle – we had snacks and drinks back in town instead, no mosquitoes. Cozumel was the most modern of the ports we visited. There, shoppers are loosened up to spend mucho dinero by being plied with free shots of tequila. On our own, we took a taxi to Chankanab ($10) to snorkel. Admission is $12 each, gear rental about $8, fish and coral sighting, priceless. Again, we enjoyed being on our own, able to come and go at our own pace. Freestyle Dining and Entertainment We, and most of the people we met, truly enjoyed the “freestyle” experience, being able to dine any time any place. In the restaurants you have the option of being seated alone or with others, which we usually did, and made many friends and acquaintances. We did notice the service was curt on occasion and sometimes lengthy (2 ½ hours to dine someone complained). Whether this is an indirect result of freestyle, I don’t know. On our last evening we opted to eat with our new friends at the specialty restaurant East Meets West. It was well worth the additional $10 charge. One in our party ordered the sushi platter – amazing! The food at the buffet was, well, typical buffet food, but it did vary from day to day. The indoor seating for the buffet was typically crowded and noisy and sometimes too warm, but quiet spots could be found in other areas if you looked for them. We opted all breakfasts and most lunches in the Garden Restaurant and ate dinners in the Seven Seas. Be sure to orient yourself to the Tapas bar, pizza, sandwich, and ice cream bars early. There were only a few “downsides” to the trip. Our balcony was wonderful, but we were flanked by smokers on both sides. If a smoker was out, we went in, which hampered our enjoyment of sitting outdoors at port and when sailing. (Why not put smokers on one side or near the back of the ship?) We could not detect smoke when inside our room, thankfully, since my husband is very allergic to it. The other negative was the result of our room location on the Norway deck. One evening, the constant booming of bass kept us awake (pool party) and early morning scraping and shuffling of the deck chairs could sometimes be heard. Be aware that the bed has the European style duvet only (no top sheet, but not a problem). As far as maintenance of the room goes, I felt like I was in a hotel that cleaned the room in the morning and turned down the bed and tidied up in the evening. Adequate, but not beyond. Although I have a good sense of direction, I was still “turned around” the last day of the cruise, never sure I got somewhere the most efficient way. The entertainment was outstanding, especially the singing duo Twice as Nice. We loved it all - karaoke, the art auctions (free champagne), Friday afternoon chocolate buffet, the shows! Making us aware of all the offerings was Colin, our cruise director par excellence, who had everyone in hysterics. The age range of the passengers was varied, and there were not too many children this time of year, a factor we took into account when booking. Would I recommend Norwegian Sun and freestyle? You bet! Would my husband, who was ambivalent about going in the first place, want to go on another? Yes! Now there’s an endorsement!

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Nov 6, 2004

Western Caribbean

We sent this letter to all the executives of NCL in their Miami corporate office and have never had our issues addressed. This is why I’m posting our letter, so that others will learn from our mistake. Norwegian Cruise Line is the worst and we highly recommend everyone use a different cruise line. Gentlemen: We wish to express our extreme disappointment with the service we received on our recent cruise with the Norwegian Sun from

Nov 6th – 13th. We had been planning a cruise to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary with our family since last April. The entire party consisted of twelve adults (including one in a wheelchair and my wife on a rented scooter) and three grandchildren ages 4, 6, & 7. More specifically, we had issues with handicapped access, excursions and employee service. Handicapped Issues: While our daughter Donalyn Saia’s room was very accessible for someone in a wheelchair, the rest of the ship was not. The doorways onto the pool deck from the forward part of the ship were a hazard for anyone in a wheelchair or using a scooter. Case in point, Donalyn’s chair flipped over backwards while she was attempting to navigate a pool deck doorway. (An accident report is on file with the ship) She subsequently saw the ship’s doctor and had an X-ray of her head. She suffered a headache for two days. My wife also had great difficulty managing these doorways on her scooter and on two occasions she cut her heel on the edge of the scooter as it tipped side-wise while hung up in the doorway. When planning the trip, we called NCL numerous times inquiring about a “lift van”. We wanted to make sure that everyone knew that there would be two women in wheelchairs and that all the proper arrangements were in order. Every time we talked to someone, they sounded surprised and said that they would log it into their computer. Then we would call again and hear the same thing. Another daughter, Susan (also on the cruise) finally talked to someone in Ground Transportation (a women 305-436-7465) about a week before the cruise. She thanked Susan for calling and informed her that they didn’t know anything about the need for a lift van. She assured Susan that now that she had talked to her everything would be arranged. The lift van was in Ft. Lauderdale. On the last afternoon of the cruise Donalyn’s husband went to the reception desk to make sure that the lift van would again be at the port of Miami. He was told that since they weren’t informed about it and since it was a little late that they would be charged for a van. He then found Susan, who had confirmed all the arrangement, and she went down to the reception desk to resolve the problem. Susan asked to speak with the supervisor who assured her that a lift van would be waiting. After they got off the ship, and waited almost an hour, a van did show up. The driver drove so fast, and zig zagged thru traffic so erratically, that everyone had to hold on tight all the way to Ft. Lauderdale. We realize that the van service is only hired by NCL, but NCL has the responsibility to monitor and get feed back on the quality of such service. This van service was ver poor in our judgment. Excursion Issues: From the beginning we actively searched and investigated excursions for the handicapped. We were in contact with two NCL Miami reps. We were emailing for months before the cruise trying to line up available excursions for handicapped or at least available lift vans. There was one excursion in Cozumel that was marked in the NCL brochure with a handicapped accessible symbol, but there was no loft van available to get to the site. We were told that busses were available to go shopping in Cancun, but no transportation was available for wheelchair bound persons. It would appear that NCL has an utter disregard for handicapped passengers Others in our group had many excursion-related obstacles. Our third daughter, Linda Hees, was traveling with her three young children. After getting the boys up, dressed, fed and down to the proper departing deck for the tender, tendered for 30 minutes, and after arriving, at the port, she was informed that the tour was cancelled. Why couldn’t some effort have been made to tell her that the tour had been cancelled before all this effort was put into it? Another two members of our group made arrangements for an ATV/Snorkel/Kayaking excursion. After arriving at the ATV location, they were informed that two thirds of their tour was cancelled. They were told that if any portion of the tour was cancelled that some other activity would replace it. This was not done. When they got back on the ship, they complained to the excursion desk and were told that each of them would have to fill out a formal complaint in writing, which they did. Only then did they receive a 30% refund. We would like to understand NCL’s math on this problem. Lose 2/3 of a tour…receive 1/3 adjustment!! In addition, why was a formal written complaint required? Is it because NCL’s policy is only to adjust the tour costs of those who complain instead of automatically adjusting everyone’s cancelled tours? After we found out that two of the four ports were tendered, we were told by both Cruise Market Place and NCL that people in wheelchairs “might” be able to go ashore. When we got on the ship, we were told by someone at the reception desk that “no” they couldn’t not go ashore. Then we were told by the excursion desk people that “yes” they would carry any wheelchair persons onto the tender along with their chair. After watching “normal” people struggling to leave the ship, we made the decision not to risk our lives on a couple of men to try to carry our daughter or my wife onto the tender. We therefore missed the pleasure of sightseeing and or paid excursions at two of the four ports. Has anyone at NCL attempted to navigate a wheelchair at the port at Roatan and see any “fun” things? Employee Service: We were dumbfounded at the consistent three hour dinners that we were subjected to. It didn’t seem to be the waiter’s fault, but never the less, children and some adults were falling asleep at the table. The evening was shot for some since they were to tired to do anything after dinner or they had missed the shows. The food in general was sub-par. The portions were too small and the meat quality was poor. We even had problems with the correct amount of postage for post cards sold to us on the ship. The excursion desk, photo, Latitudes desk, ships stores and library are only open a short time and mostly at dinnertime. While in port, everything is closed. Leaving people who are left on the ship with limited amusement or shopping activities. Although the ships video tour was very interesting, we couldn’t understand the speaker very well since English was obviously not his first language. Our daughter, Susan was overcharged by NCL/Cruise Market Place for airfare back in August and is still waiting for a full refund. My brother Charles booked the cruise and paid for insurance but had to cancel due to his wife’s unanticipated surgery. He is still waiting for his refund. Our concerns and laments were conveyed to the gentlemen at the Latitudes desk who did summon a ships officer who said our concerns would be recorded. My wife and I were very pleased with the “Happy Anniversary” card and champagne provided by Dennis Prguda. However, this positive point can in no way overcome the displeasure expressed to us by ALL members of our group. My wife summed it up by saying “After four cruises with NCL, Never Again” on this line!!

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By Faye_CR

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Nov 6, 2004

Western Caribbean

Some of the previous reviews had left us a bit leary of taking the Sun, but our choice was based on the ports of call. Because of it being an older ship we were expecting some "worn-out" appearance but were quite pleased to say that it appeared "brand-new". The only place that we noticed wear was the air venting on the deck showed some rust around the screws. And what did we care about that. The accommodations were

larger than we had expected, though still tight they were sufficient. Far enough space for storage and the washroom facilities were great. Hot water at all times of the day, even the busy hours of the morning. Our ice bucket was full twice daily and the bed tended to. Comfortable sleeping and I loved the "rocking" effect since we all like to be rocked to sleep. The food was the absolute best. We don't even eat that well when we are fine dining at home. There were several choices of restaurants to choose from, though some of the specialty fares had a cover charge it was very reasonable. We enjoyed the steak house and the japanese . The only complaint I would slightly mention was the internet service and the lack of explanation with regards to the cost outlay. Be assured that paying by the minute is NOT WORTH IT. Buy a package and there is also a minimal hook up fee which surprised me. But the satellite service was far better than the one I receive at home. We met the captain twice and the onboard activities were great. The tendering process was a bit frustrating if you were not signed on an excursion through the Sun itself. We had booked private tours and had to wait until last to disembark. Even if we lined up two hours prior. So if you want off quickly, book with the SUN. All in all we enjoyed the entire cruise. The staff was more than friendly and helpful with whatever we required. And the entertainment was as fine as broadway. So enjoy your trip. WE DID!

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Oct 5, 2004

Western Caribbean

After reading so many ‘negative’ comments about the ‘NCL Sun’ on this and other web sites, to be honest I really was expecting the worst….Inedible food, uncomfortable beds, cold water, unfriendly staff, smoke fumes everywhere……So I decided to keep a record and hopefully give an accurate [and British] report of our trip on the ‘Sun’ on the Western Caribbean cruise from Nov 6th – 13th 2004. Hopefully this review will

help set the picture straight… Friday – flew to MIA on a packed BA 747. Booked the Townhouse Hotel at 20th and Collins via Travelocity – just $99 a night for this cool hip trendy hotel in SoBe. Just fantastic: especially the waterbed loungers in the roof top bar. Will probably never know what the beachball on the bed was for though…. Saturday – took a stroll down to 6th and back to soak in the SoBe atmosphere before catching a cab to the Port. Arrived around 1pm, got in the Latitudes queue [we had a Latitudes number on our booking form so we thought ‘what the heck…’]. If you submit your credit card when checking in, all your expenses will be automatically charged to this card at the end of the week, so you avoid being embarrassed on the last day by having your name called over the PA to settle your account! We were on board within 30 minutes joining 2202 other passengers and 948 staff. Our Cabin – BB/9216 with balcony. The cabin was much larger than we expected. Twin beds pushed together which were very comfortable, loads of hanging space and storage space [13 coat hangers in the wardrobe – we had bought 10 more and used all of them – shows I packed too many clothes!]. There was a sofa in the cabin and two chairs and a table on the balcony so tons of seating. The TV showed ESPN and CNN and reruns of ‘I Love Lucy’ so we never watched it. There are also two movie channels showing continuous movies. There was a fridge and the ice bucket was always full. Our steward Florescu greeted us by name each time we saw him, which I thought, was quite impressive. Our luggage was delivered by 2:45. The Bathroom – OK – it is compact but I found that it had enough storage space for us. The shower cubicle was large enough [for 2…], the water pressure strong and there was always tons of hot water. The hairdryer is also powerful. We bought one soda card for $28.50. For this you got a sticker on your room card and an insluated tin cup. I never did figure if you always had to present both the card and the tin cup to get your drink – it depends who was serving. Anyway, we did not get ignored at any bar just because we wanted a ‘free’ drink. Unfortunately the sail away party was a wash out. Don’t be lured – like we were – into having a sail away cocktail. They are not free! After a bottle of champagne in the Champagne Bar [this was to be a nightly habit..] we ate in the Seven Seas Restaurant. I agree that this is slightly odd to find – it is on 5th but you have to approach it down the stairs from the 6th. Waited for all of 3 seconds to get seated at a window table for 2. At no time did we wait for more than 30 seconds to get seated at any restaurant – another myth shot down… We usually ate around 8pm. We always got a table for two and most times we got one next to the window. I ate Prawn Cocktail followed by Turkey and he had French Onion Soup and Shrimp Estouffe. A bottle of Fetzer Sauvignon Blanc went with it [$22] Tip: at dinner you are offered a choice of two bottled waters. Ask for the ships water instead as this is free and they keep your glass constantly topped up Tip: Keep your wine receipts – once you have drunk 5 you get the 6th bottle free. Sunday – Day at sea. Breakfast at the Great Outdoor Café/Garden Café. It was time for the scrambled eggs… They are NOT runny; in fact, they are rather good! The Eggs Benedict are fantastic though. These are available every day in the more formal Seven Seas [except embarkation day] There were always enough sun loungers and enough towels. The noise from the pool was too loud though and drove us up to 13th at the front where it was quieter. Only went into the pool once, as it was always so crowded. Colombian Emeralds Inc were having a ‘special’ that day – everything was either 10% or 20% off. That turned out to be an expensive day for us! Whenever we were on board at lunch we always ate in the Great Outdoor Café/Garden Café. Hidden gem is the curry man…yummy! And the cookies… That night was the Captain’s Champagne party. The champagne just kept on flowing from 7 to 8, with great canapés. Nice to see so many people making an effort and dressing up for the occasion. We ate in Il Adagio. You can book the speciality restaurants a day in advance. The speciality menus are on display on the 5th Atrium. They do not change during the week. Il Adagio was simply fantastic. Again the entrance is slightly odd – it is on the 5th but you get to it via a little staircase between Dazzles and Windjammer on 6th. We stuck with the house champagne at $22 and I had mozzarella and tomato on blinis and chicken and he had mushroom ravioli followed by shrimp with 40 cloves of garlic. It is a slight exaggeration about there being 40 cloves! Dinner is followed with complimentary Limoncello. Entertainment that night was from Lee Ann Ryan Show - “Oh Mr Producer”. Proficient but not our sort of thing. Monday – Grand Cayman. This trip held a special meaning for me as I used to live in Cayman as a child and this was my first return journey. The islanders must have gone through hell during that hurricane – roofs ripped off, trees uprooted. We hired a cab driver [Frank Ebanks] to drive us round to try and find my old house. We ended up at the Beach Club – which charged us $8 each to get in. This is where I spent my childhood days but unfortunately it was where the ship took their tours so we were not alone on the wonderful sandy beach. Tip: the cab fare from the port to the Beach Club is $3 each way. I think the ship tour was nearer $30 We managed to loose one of our room keys so were worried about getting back on the boat but it seems this is a common occurrence and we got one made up immediately Tip: take a photocopy of your passport or have your driving licence so you have ID on you at all times That night we did not feel like a heavy dinner so we ate in Las Ramblas. Bottle of Hogue Fume Blanc $24. Nice place with music, but on reflection not the place for a dinner as there is not a big enough tapas selection. Tuesday – Roatan – we docked for disembarkation but it was a tender back as the NCL Sea was also in. Via these sites we had learnt of Victor Bodden who did taxi tours - victorbodden@yahoo.com - We exchanged a few emails but he was already booked for that day but said he would arrange for someone else. Sure enough when we disembarked there was Victor with a sign with our names on! He introduced us to Theris – “the only lady cab driver on the island”. She was fantastic. I would highly recommend her – therisdixon@yahoo.com. She drove us round this beautiful island, and took us to a local restaurant for lunch – chicken stew and home made lemonade for $5!!! She then took us to the Half Moon Beach Club Cabins where we could snorkel and just relax. Unfortunately the sea was choppy so not much to be seen. We paid $50 for the day. We dined again in the Seven Seas – it was the President’s Dinner that night. Gruyere cheese followed by cold curry soup and rack of lamb for him and avocado prawn and beef tenderloin for me. Bottle of Oregon King’s Estate Pinot Gris which became our favourite wine at $28. By now we had decided that the Seven Seas was very good and didn’t bother trying any other specialities [apart from Il Adagio again]. Le Bistro cost $15 and we were told that service in there was very slow, I don’t eat sushi so Ginza/East meets West was of no interest to me, and Pacific Heights looked a lot like the Garden Café and nothing special for dinner. The show that night was ‘Cirque Pan’ – again very odd! I was beginning to think that once you have seen the chubby Russian man lift up a slip of a girl with one hand once…it was not necessary to see it multiple times! Wednesday – Belize – a long tender in and we were late disembarking. This was the only trip we booked via NCL – ‘New River Safari and Lamani’ for $89. Our guides were Bel and Mrs Robinson. They were excellent – an hour coach trip to a river and then a river trip in a highspeed boat to get to the ruins. However because there was so much to be seen on the river with the birdlife [and crocodiles] we took our time in reaching the ruins. Not a mosquito was seen or felt…. We got lunch at the ruins and then had about 45 mins there. Tip: don’t bother paying $3.25 for the ships water they offer before this tour – we had plenty of water on the coach and the boat that were free. Again we ate in Seven Seas for the Italian dinner. Our Verdiccio at $22 qualified as our 6th bottle so this one was free! Calamari and veal chop for him, and Caprese and Chicken Parmigana for me. That night at 11:30 was the All Male Review followed by the Chocolate Buffet at midnight. I fell asleep and missed it….. Darn it. !!!! Thursday – Cozumel. There were 7 ships in so it was packed. As we looked out and saw the golden arches of McDonalds we were prepared not to like this place! Caught a cab for $10 to Chankanaab Park where entry was $12.50. Pleasantly surprised - this was the best snorkelling we have ever seen – the fish were so close! We had lunch at Pancho’s Backyard – a great place with a true flavour of Mexico amongst all the Colombian Emerald shops – this restaurant is highly recommended. And then we ended up at Carlos’nCharlies….it all gets a bit hazy after that. Those frozen margaritas sure were good and what a great atmosphere. Just get up and dance on those tables – but don’t miss the boat! Helpfully Carlos ‘n Charlies is right opposite the pier so not far to walk. Amusing watching those who had consumed more margaritas than me try to make it back! Again we went to the Seven Seas for the Farewell dinner. More Oregon Pinot Gris accompanied my lobster terrine and a great pork stir fry, he had oysters and duck. Save room for the Banana’s Foster though which was the only desert we had all week but it was very good. 3rd Lee Ann Ryan show was “Que Noche”. Marginally the best one but still very similar to the others…and he was still lifting up the girl with one hand! Friday – final day at sea. Everything is for sale in the shops so save your souvenir shopping till then. Spent the day sunbathing up on 13th away from the noise of the pool. For our final dinner we went back to Il Adagio. We managed to have the Verdiccio as our next 6th free bottle to accompany yet another delicious meal. Tonight I had the tomato and mozzarella on blini [again], and beef medallions, and he had tomato consommé followed by lamb shank which he said was excellent. The comedian, Jeff Harms was on that night – thought he was very funny. We also had a final drink in the Observation Lounge. “Twice as Nice” are the group there – very good. Not much of a dance floor though. Saturday – time to leave! Don’t even think of having a lie in that day as the PA announcements come thick and fast from 7am onwards. We chose to do the express embarkation, which means we could leave at any time but had to carry our own luggage. Tip: We caught a cab to the airport for $25 – I think that NCL charge $29pp for the transfer. If we had any negative comments to make it would be that: · The PA announcements were intrusive and slightly down market! I do not want to be told that a bingo session was about to begin whilst I am having my dinner! British readers think “Hi-di-Hi….” · The noise by the pool was far too loud · I did not like the kid’s club being paraded through the champagne bar – this is a place for drinking not for chanting children · The casino was far too visible – it is on 7th and you had to walk through it to get to the Stardust Lounge and the shops. It was also right off the Champagne bar. · There was not so much as a free post card in your cabin So in summary, we thought the ship was excellent. It was always spotless, food was very good, and we did not find any examples of those things that other people have complained about [food/staff/queues etc]. It certainly wasn’t smoky – apart from in the cigar area and you would expect that! All the staff were incredibly friendly, but a special mention goes to Roger in Il Adagio, Abel in Seven Seas and the charming Olga in the Champagne Bar. Our final bill was $738 [excluding the CEI purchase..!]. Considering this included the compulsory $10 pp per day tip, a trip and our wine and champagne it was cheaper than we were expecting to pay. We loved the Freestyle way of cruising and dining and the fact that we did not have to think about tipping – although we did add extra tips in restaurants where we felt that service had been good. In summary, we would definitely cruise with NCL again!  

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Sep 18, 2004

Alaska

My first and last experience with NCL and their Freestyle cruising can be summed up by one word disappointing!! I have to admit I read some of these reviews before booking my trip and thought some of you are just fussy....I was wrong. Stateroom: We booked an outside balcony cabin category BE and were please to find out we were upgraded to category BA. What we weren't pleased to find out is that we were located directly under the

aerobics room where frequent aerobics AND dancing classes were held. Food: NCL pretty much forces you to pay the extra cover charges for their Freestyle restaurants as the food and service in their main dining rooms and garden cafe is so terrible. I will admit I ate at Le Bistro the food was excellent but cost us an extra 30.00. Entertainment: The broadway type shows were awesome,the stand up comedian the "Cookie Man" very funny. The only thing I didn't enjoy were the waiters constantly trying to sell you drinks. Alaska is beautiful. Whether on an excursion or standing on my balcony the scenery was breathtaking. Take lot's of warm clothing and make sure to dress in layers as it is freezing one minute and hot the next. Summary: NCL has very poor customer service,it's not good enough that you pay your initial 3000.00 for the trip they want you to spend another 500.00 on your shipboard account just to get a decent meal,a couple souvenir pictures and a drink!! Go to Alaska it is beautiful just don't choose NCL.

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  • New

Sep 4, 2004

Alaska

Well, we too read all the reviews and wondered whether people were just being fussy or whether we should be worried. Well, we needn’t have worried – we had a lovely cruise and decided that people either were being fussy or were just unfortunate. This was our first ever cruise so we had no idea what to expect. >From start to finish the service we received was excellent. Staff were extremely polite at all times and the food was

wonderful. Our stateroom (category D) was lovely – plenty of storage and very clean. It was kept immaculately throughout the cruise and it was a lovely touch to have our beds turned down each evening, a chocolate on the pillow and usually an animal made out of towels on the bed. The first of these made us howl with laughter as it was a dog wearing a pair of our sunglasses. The ship itself was very clean also. Embarkation: Embarkation was busy but reasonably swift with the biggest delay being due to US immigration and that was mainly because of the volume of people – but we were served refreshments while we waited and there were plenty of seats, so no hardship there. We discovered that we could drop off our hire car (Alamo) right at the terminal and also leave our luggage there prior to check-in. The drop off for luggage and car were both in the underground car park at Canada Place below the Pan Pacific Hotel. Lots of car hire companies seemed to have their drop off there also. For UK travellers –before travelling, we were concerned at reading in the press that some American cruise lines do not provide the necessary US visa waiver form and that people had had to travel to London and obtain a visa at considerable expense. We made enquiries and were told this was not necessary with NCL and this turned out to be correct. The green visa waiver card was provided at check-in. Of course, if you don’t qualify for the visa waiver you would need to get a full visa before leaving the UK as you are going from Canada to the US. Also, make sure the retained portion of the green card is removed from your passport on re-entering Canada – these apparently have to be returned to US immigration (Canadian customs took them and did this for us) as they then record that you have left the US – this avoids being accused, next time you visit the US, of overstaying previously and being denied entry. This has apparently happened to some people according to the newspapers. We had actually found, prior to leaving that our green cards were still in our passports from last time. We sent them off to Kentucky in the US as instructed on the US Immigration website but you have to enclose proof that you returned to the UK within the 90 days max allowed etc. We sent it recorded delivery but also took copies of our letter and the cards and evidence just in case of problems – of course, there wasn’t a problem but you just know if you don’t take the precautions it will all go wrong. We checked in very easily and were given our key card – this acts as your room key and also as a payment card on board for any purchases. It can be linked to your credit card so that the gratuity charge and any purchases can be charged at the end of the voyage and you don’t have to queue up on the last morning to pay your bill in cash. On entering the ship, our card was swiped (this happens everytime you embark or disembark so make sure you keep it with you – all members of your party need to have their own with them). We were greeted and shown to our stateroom by very friendly and polite staff and then set off to explore the ship and get some lunch. We loved it although the various welcome events etc got a bit confusing – so many places to go, things to see etc. Food: Our first experience of the food was the Garden Café buffet. A very wide choice of food and it all looked appetising. I think the worst thing was trying not to be a glutton – some people clearly didn’t try – we saw many plates piled high and some people seemed to do nothing but eat for the entire trip. Everything was clean, staff polite and helpful and tables cleared promptly. We often ate breakfast in the Outdoors Café and this too was very good. It wasn’t difficult to eat healthily if you wanted to as there was always plenty of options and lots for fresh fruit, vegetables, salads etc. – you could also indulge whenever you wanted in lovely desserts. We didn’t bother with any of the restaurants that required a cover charge - not because we were mean but because the food in the other restaurants was so good. Rather than eat buffet the whole time, we ate in the restaurants in the evenings – Pacific Heights and Seven Seas. Service was excellent – staff really seemed interested in you, whether you were having a good time and whether everything was to your liking. Pacific Heights was our favourite – the only downside was that the menu there was the same for the whole week – several choices but if there were items you weren’t keen on then you either had to go elsewhere or eat the same thing some nights. However, we rang the changes with Seven Seas and that too was excellent. Pacific Heights is quite small and you have to book but we nearly always had a window table and the staff were some of the best on board. I think some people have said that the portions were not large – we found them sufficient but if you were still hungry you could always go to the buffet for an extra pud or something – no one but you was counting! By the way, if you have a bottle of wine that you don’t finish you can have it put aside for the next night – doesn’t matter if you don’t eat at the same place, it still turns up. Itinerary and Excursions: Ketchikan – quite a small place, fairly interesting but not our favourite. We went on the Neets Bay Bear Watch in a float plane which was excellent if expensive. The guide was really good and full of information. We saw three black bears and even saw one catch a salmon. The floatplane flew over the Misty Fjords so I’m not sure it would have been worth doing just the Misty Fjords excursion – we felt we had two for the price of one. Fortunately it stayed dry for that part of the trip although it poured with rain later and for the rest of the day. Disembarkation was by tender on this stop (the only one where we had to do this) so there was a bit of a queue to get back on the ship but it moved fairly swiftly. Juneau – a pleasant town but not a lot there. We didn’t do any excursions here as we were only there for a few hours. The people were very friendly and some nice shops. It was a lovely sunny morning and we could have gone up the Mount Roberts cable car if we had been stuck for something to do. Sawyer Glacier – after leaving Juneau, we sailed up the Tracy Arm Fjord to the Sawyer Glacier. Again, not sure whether the people who paid extra to go on the Tracy Arm Fjord excursion in the morning would have got good value in doing it separately. We were lucky to do it in beautiful sunshine and blue skies – spectacular scenery. The glacier was great although we couldn’t go too close because of the ice in the water. Skagway – we thought this was the loveliest of the places we visited. Very picturesque town. We decided to see if we could do the White Pass Rail Trip under our own steam. It was $99 each on the ship but we found you could walk the 10 minutes to the station and do it for $89 each – not a great saving but it paid for a few treats. Very easy to book on one of the three departures that day and no problem in getting a seat. The ship-booked passengers get on by the ship but the train then goes to the station and picks up extra carriages – we got the impression they put on however many carriages were needed for the numbers booked – we were told no-one ever had to stand. Bottled water was supplied on board but no other refreshments so we had lunch on board ship before we went. The three hour round trip was spectacular and we really enjoyed it. The onboard commentary was very interesting although a little hard to hear at times. The seats reverse on the return trip so you always face the direction of travel and the people are encouraged to swap sides of the train at the top so everyone gets to see the view from both sides – therefore, it doesn’t matter what side of the train you start out on. Again the great weather helped. Wrangell – a pretty little place but very much a working fishing town. Not a huge amount to see but nice just walking around and visiting Chief Shaker’s Island. The churches on Church Street were very pretty too. Our return voyage was supposedly through the Inside Passage again but it actually goes out into the Pacific during the night – as we found to our cost. Unfortunately it was quite rough on our last but one night and I succumbed to terrible sea sickness, as did quite a few others. I finally managed to crawl on deck at about 3pm but felt ill for a few days as I seemed to have strained every muscle in my upper body throwing up. I think for future reference the fact that we were right at the front of the ship didn’t help as we were told afterwards that it is better to be aft or midships. Having planned to have a lovely relaxing last day aboard, it was a shame not to be able to enjoy it and have the nice meal we had looked forward to. Still, no-one is responsible for the weather but I did wonder whether, as they said they would be going through the inside passage, that they shouldn’t have gone out to sea instead. I think it may have been a cost cutting exercise as they wouldn’t need the pilot ships out at sea. It was lucky it wasn’t the last night before Vancouver that it happened as I would never have made it off the ship the next morning. My husband was queasy but not ill as I was. What was really annoying was finally making it on deck and finding loads of people tucking into huge plates of food as though nothing had happened! We did hear that I was certainly not the only one to be ill though and it was the only low point in an otherwise excellent trip. Overall: Fellow passengers were a mix of origin and age - not a lot of children at this time of year. We were amazed at how rude some people can be to the crew - makes you ashamed. Sadly it always seemed to be the people who clearly thought they were a 'cut above' and should have known better. They actually succeeded in demonstrating their lack of real class. However, we also met some lovely people. So, overall we were delighted with our cruise, the ship and the crew. Food and accommodation were excellent. Our first cruise so nothing to compare it with but we were pleased. Prior to going we thought the automatic gratuity system was a bit much but actually it was relaxing not having to worry about tipping and we certainly got the service we paid for. Cabin staff were also very friendly and efficient. The only downsides were the cost of excursions and that penultimate night of rough weather. We would travel with NCL again.

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Jul 31, 2004

Alaska

My wife and I decided for our honeymoon to take a cruise to Alaska. This was one of the things my wife had always wanted to do, and after consulting with our travel agent, we had decided to go on the 7-day cruise, round-trip from Vancouver, on the NCL Sun. This was our first cruise, but we did have some expectations from talks with other couples who had cruised before and from talking with our parents. Our overall impression of the cruise

is a very mixed bag of both good and bad. There were some things we enjoyed greatly about the cruise and our honeymoon, and there were some things that we were not as pleased about. Getting There We live in Baltimore and instead of flying directly to Vancouver, we decided to take some more time out in the Pacific Northwest. My wife had never been further west than St. Louis and I had never been further west than Mt. Rushmore, so instead of flying to Vancouver, we flew out on Wednesday to Seattle on Southwest. The difference in airfare was over $500, so it is an option to think about if you want to save some money. We flew out early in the morning from Baltimore and arrived around noon in Seattle, giving us a bit of time to explore Seattle. We spent one night in Seattle and then took Amtrak from Seattle to Vancouver. We highly recommend this. The train ride from Seattle to Vancouver was beautiful, as the train spent most of the journey bordering on Puget Sound and the ride was very comfortable. Since our cruise started on Sunday, we had 3 days in Vancouver. We stayed at the Hycroft Bed and Breakfast in the Granville area of Vancouver. It is truly spectacular. The breakfasts there are to die for and the hospitality of the hosts was wonderful. We both really enjoyed all of our time in Vancouver. If you have the time in Vancouver, you should definitely see Stanley Park, Grouse Mountain, walk around Gastown and Granville Island and try all of the various restaurants in Vancouver (especially the Memphis BBQ place, which is better than 99.9% of the BBQ places in the South). If you don’t book your travel through NCL, it really is to your advantage to get to spend at least a day or two in Vancouver. Even with 3 days there, my wife and I are looking forward to getting back there in the future and exploring more of Vancouver and hopefully getting to Victoria. Getting On-Board On Sunday morning, we arrived at Canada Place around 11:30 AM. Everything was well organized for getting our cards and checking in. The only strange thing was that since this was our honeymoon, I was using the video camera to videotape as much as I could. After going through customs, we headed to the boat and I was recording our progress. We turned a corner and all of a sudden, a few of the NCL crewmember were telling me to turn off the camera. As far as I could tell, the only thing was that we were next to the ship and there was the place where the NCL crew takes your photo. Kind of strange that this was a “high” security area, but I guess they don’t want people to know how they take photos or something along those lines. We did the photos and then were told we could turn on the camera again. We got on board, cleaned our hands with the antiseptic gel and we off to our room. The staff seemed friendly, although no one offered to help us locate our room or take any of the luggage we had with us. Room We were both very pleased with our cabin. Initially, our cabin was going to be a cabin with a window, but our travel agent called us a few weeks before our cruise and got us an upgrade to a balcony. That was clearly worth the money we paid for the balcony. The room itself was nicely laid out and very functional. We were able to unpack all of our clothing (we had approximately 2 weeks of clothing, due to our time in Vancouver before the cruise and Seattle afterwards) and stow away our luggage below the bed. The bed was plenty comfortable and the couch next to it was also nice. The balcony was nice, with two deck chairs and a great view. The bathroom was very functional and amazing how they packed everything in it. We joked about how it was better than our first hotel in Seattle, but that’s a story for another time. That first day, we also met our cabin steward. He was very nice and the staff always took good care of the room. We never got towels made up as animals or anything like that, but we didn’t have any problems with our room. Overall, we felt very comfortable in our cabin and have no complaints about NCL. Public Areas The public areas on the ship were also nice in our opinion. Since this was the NCL Sun, most of the main public rooms were brightly lit. The Observation Lounge was very nice and we enjoyed reading there while the ship was at sea. The Stardust Lounge was also nice, although it looked like it might have been a bit overworked, as some of the chairs looked older than they really were. I did think the library on board was a bit small and the hours they kept were kind of limited, which was too bad, since they had a nice selection of games to play and books to read. The Atrium was picturesque. Our biggest complaint about the public areas though was the smoke from smokers. While I know that the cruise line cannot control the actions of the smokers, it did make some areas less than desirable and I know there were some areas of the ship we would not spend time in (casino, Dazzles) due to the cigarette smoke. Food Before I begin talking about the food, I do want to say that our expectations were high in the area of food. Both of our parents talked about how great food was on a cruise. While the food was plentiful on the cruise, it really was hit and miss about the quality of the food. Since we arrived on the ship very early (we boarded around 12:30), we were able to get lunch and since the only place that was open was The Garden Café, we ate there. As we figured out, Café is just a fancy French word for College Dormitory Cafeteria. We thought the food was average, but we chalked that up to the fact that they were in transition between the last cruise and our cruise and that the good food would be coming up lately. After everyone arrived onboard, they had a going away BBQ. While some of the items were wonderful (pretzel rolls), other items were lacking any quality (ribs). I think that in a way summed up what we got to experience on the cruise. My wife and I always had breakfast in the Garden Café and they were the best meals that were served in that location. My wife was a particular fan of the potato rounds they served and I was glad that the bacon was all you could eat. The only problem was that seating was limited at times in the Café and in the morning, they hadn’t always finished cleaning the back deck for additional seating. But overall, there were no problems about breakfast (thankfully, we were only one deck below the Café, so it was easy enough to get food and bring it back to our cabin). Lunches were the poorest meal of the day universally. Again, we would normally have our lunch in either the Garden Café or the Great Outdoor Café. The food was always plentiful, but the quality varied greatly. Some of the lunches were very tasty, while others were just not very good. The only really good lunch we had was in Juneau when they had an outdoor BBQ going on and the food was good for that (again, the pretzel rolls made the event). Dinners, on the other hand, were normally very good, but I won’t go as far as excellent. We had three meals in the Seven Seas Dining Room, one each in the Four Seasons Dining Room, Pacific Heights, Ginza East Meets West and the Teppanyaki Restaurant. The three meals we had in the Seven Seas were very good. The first two nights there were excellent, although the flank steak on the last night was just not up to the standards I would put on flank steak. Pacific Heights is a free dining room, with healthy lifestyle choices. The food in there was above average, but nothing to rave about. I got meat loaf, and while it was certainly good, I’m not sure if I would have preferred to have meat loaf from Boston Market. For the places that we paid to eat at, the dinners were excellent. My wife and I enjoyed the Teppanyaki greatly, as everything was well prepared and our chef was nicely interactive with our table. The East Meets West was also excellent, with wonderful service and a beef tenderloin to die for. Unfortunately though, the night I was looking forward to most (lobster night) was the most disappointing meal I had on the ship. We decided to try The Four Seasons and that might have been our first mistake. The lobster that we both had was very tough and just not tasty at all. Second, the service was exceedingly poor. While most of the other diners had their server take their lobster out of the shell, our server never offered us that. We had to ask for our dessert menu and she didn’t take care of our drinks or anything else in a timely manner. While I shouldn’t allow for one event to mar the rest, I have to admit that it left a very sour taste in my mouth. Snacks on board were also hit and miss. The ice cream bar was very good, but the hours were only during the afternoon, as they did not serve ice cream at all during the evenings. Around 11 at night, the Garden Café would bring out leftovers from earlier in the day (including flank steak one evening and a great Crab Bisque another night), but much of what they had out was well overcooked (or overheated). My wife and I would most of the time call up room service if we wanted a late night snack of pizza, fruit and chocolate mousse. Activities and Staff Overall, the activities aboard the Sun were ok, but not as great of a variety of activities as one might expect. My wife and I partook of trivia every day and that was enjoyable and a good way of getting to know some of our fellow passengers and some of the entertainment staff. However, that didn’t appear to be many other activities like that. There were no public tours of the boat and very few arts and craft activities. Every day, there was a crossword puzzle in the library, but since the library’s hours were random, that was hard to do on an everyday basis. The nightly shows were better than average, but nothing great either. The juggler on our cruise was enjoyable. My wife and I really enjoyed the comedian, who did a great job of having material that was appropriate for everyone on the ship from the kids to the older folks. We did feel like the cruise director was a bit over the top and seemed like the type of woman you wouldn’t want to cross in a dark alley, but that might just have been her appearance on the cruise. I think the thing that disappointed my wife and me the most though was that everything in the ship seemed to have some price to it. We were there on our honeymoon and randomly met other newlywed couples on the ship. However, there was nothing onboard for newlyweds (or anyone else for that matter). When I asked about this at the front desk, I was told that they did nothing for honeymooners, and that if I wanted anything done, I could pay extra for their special “honeymoon” package. While I understand that they are there to make a buck, it seemed like the entire attitude was “we aren’t going out of our way for you”. I know in talking to other couples that honeymooned on other cruise lines, that there was either a special cocktail hour or some other mixer event, but none on this cruise. That would have been a nice touch. Other minor things included the fact that the “fabulous” chocolate feast was held in the afternoon for about 30 minutes. I know that we missed it, since it was from 3:30 to 5, but when we got there around 4:15, we were told we were too late. In addition, on the last day of the cruise, we tried to get a t-shirt, since we got a coupon for a discounted (not free, just discounted) t-shirt for prebooking our excursions. We were told since that desk had closed for the rest of the cruise, we couldn’t get one. Again, just not the way you want to be treated when you have spent a fair amount of money for going on the cruise. Destinations Honestly, the cruise could have been much worse, but I doubt no matter how bad the cruise was, it couldn’t take way from Alaska. It is wonderful and if you are ever thinking about taking a cruise, you have to go to Alaska at least once. I know my wife has already said that she wants to go back. You should make sure to get a balcony room, so that you can sit on a deck chair and just look at the scenery go by. I can’t say how much we both loved everything we saw in Alaska. Our first stop was Ketchikan. At Ketchikan, we did the Saxman’s Village Totem Pole tour, which was great to see totem poles being made and all of the different artwork. We also did the Lumberjack show, which also was very enjoyable. The next stop was Juneau and we did the Whale Watching Tour, and that was great. I doubt we were out in the water more than 15 minutes before we saw some whales and throughout our 3-hour journey, we saw whales, seals and other Alaskan wildlife. We highly recommend that if you do go to Alaska and have never seen whales before, you have to do that. In Skagway, we did the entire tour thing of the White Pass Railway, the Salmon Bake and the Gold Rush Camp. That was very enjoyable too. The railway was a great journey to see the way pioneers flooded to Alaska back in the 1880s. It was rather expensive, but well worth it. We found that you could save money by just going into town and finding other tours that do the same thing and if you want to do, that’s great, but it was very convenient to do things through the boat. Just know you will pay more for that. As for the towns, they were all very similar. The same stuff was offered in all of the stores and you would even see the same stores in every place. That was kind of disappointing, as it seemed like there was no originality in those three ports. However, since NCL is cheap, they make sure you have at least one unique experience and for us that was Wrangell. Wrangell is so small, it isn’t even shown on all the tourist trap junk you can buy in Ketchikan, Juneau or Skagway. I think most people thought that Wrangell was a waste of time. We, on the other hand, thought it would have just been better for everyone to stop a place like Victoria or Sitka. Wrangell is trying to develop a tourist industry and they have a very nice museum of the history of southeast Alaska and the Petroglyph Beach is unique and very interesting. However, it didn’t have a lot to it (none of the normal jewelry, tourist trap t-shirt places are in Wrangell) and it did feel like NCL was only going there because the docking fees were really cheap. For those people that like staying on the ship, you can just consider the time from when you board the ship in Skagway to the time you dock in Vancouver as time at sea. Leaving Leaving the ship was also easy. We were near the end of the unboarding process, since we were taking Amtrak to leave Vancouver. The only real problem we had was actually collecting all of our luggage. We had 5 pieces and when we went to collect it, the 5 pieces were scattered throughout the room they were using, which made things difficult. When I mentioned it to one of the NCL representatives there, she shrugged her shoulders, like “oh well, that happens.” The other minor problem was that everyone was trying to leave at the same time and Vancouver didn’t seem to have enough taxis to meet the demands at that time, so we waited over an hour to leave Canada Place. Overall As I said in the beginning, this cruise was really a mixed bag of good and bad. My wife and I had a great time and would highly recommend Alaska to anyone that wanted to go there. On the other hand, I would not recommend NCL at all. I felt that NCL did an average job of everything, which while not being horrible, definitely did not live up to our expectations of what a cruise should be about. On a cruise, you want (and deserve) to be pampered and have the time of your life. What we found on NCL was that if you wanted to be pampered, you were going to pay for it (by going to the spa or paying extra for one of the fine dining experiences). For how good the food should be on a cruise, NCL fell way short of the mark. When you paid for the extra restaurants, you got great food, but you shouldn’t have to pay for that on a cruise. While the staff was nice, they never seemed to go out of their way to make anything on the trip that special. It wasn’t a bad experience, and I’m not saying that this cruise might not be right for you or your family, but you do have to beware of the fact that this isn’t the “perfect” cruise or cruise line. My wife and I are looking forward to cruising again and we look forward to cruising again in Alaska, but I can’t say that we will be doing that on an NCL cruise.

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Jun 12, 2004

Alaska

My wife and I had been on the NCL Sun about a year and a half prior to this cruise. We liked it, and thought it would be a good cruise to Alaska. To make a long story short, the ship was not clean at all. It had a very unplesant smell throughout the ship...including the dining rooms. It was like sewage smell. Our cabin was what we remembered, and our cabin steward was good. He took care of everything in the cabin for us. The free

style dinning was what we remembered, except that the food was not as good, infact...it was not good period. The dining staff was almost confused about what they were doing. The food was not hot at all. The steak I had was a flat chewey hunk of meat like you might see at a cheap steak joint down on main street USA. It was not anything like what I have had on my prior cruises. If there is one thing I know, it is steak!!! Beleive me, this was a cheap cut of meat and it tasted like it. My wife got fish the second night and it was cold and burnt. We tried the other dining room and it seemed to be about the same. The Buffett was the sadest excuse for a buffett on any cruise I have beeen on. Bad selection, and it did not even look good. Half the time there were no plates and trays at the start of the line. If you wanted to sit down, forget it. I think many folks got tierd of the dining rooms and went to the buffett only to be disappointed again. The ports were good. I think the best part of the ports was being able to get off the ship for a while. I have never felt this way on a cruise before. The staff onboard (except for the cabin stewart) was cold and almost resentful that we were there. This was the talk of the ship. So many folks mentioned this. I thought it was me. The entertainment was OK in the main show room, but the other bands onboard were terrible. It was a joke. The worst part about it is that we had contacted NCL as soon as we got off the ship, sent them letters as directed, and we have heard nothing. My travel agent sent a letter and has called them and he has not received anthing back yet, even after 4 messages. It is clear that NCL just has lost it. Plain and simple, hey just do not care about what the passengers say or how their cruise went. Every time I would talk to a crew member about a problem, it ws like oh gosh, we have never ever had a complaint before. We are surprised. Their customer service in Florida is exactly the same. They act like you are the first person to ever have a problem or not be happy with something. THeir attitude stinks. Overall, if you want a good fun, and worthwhile cruise, stay away from NCL. SO many people on our cruise, and on the cruise just before us had horror stories to tell. I would not recommend NCL to anybody looking for a cruise. I was looking for a good Mass Market cruise experience, but what we got was below what one would expect at motel 6. Bad food, bad service, bad customer relations, and a ship that stinks with a foul smell. Sound Good? If so, sail NCL!

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Jun 5, 2004

Alaska

Embarkation: From the time we first arrive at Canada Place it takes some one and a half hours to make it on board. NCL’s documentation procedures work well and their security checks are good, but, as we are visiting Alaska, the longest delay incurred was our wait for U.S. immigration officers to complete ‘entry formalities’. Thorough they obviously are; quick they certainly ‘aint. We are given numbered tickets and told to await the call for

our ‘batch number’. These are made by a diminutive oriental girl with a megaphone that doesn’t function any too well: “Number 36”, she pipes in high-pitched tones throughout the hall causing yet another group of tired and frustrated passengers to join the slow shuffle towards the half dozen or so stony-faced officials. (Where do they recruit these people, I ask myself? The Donald Rumsfeld Charm School, perhaps? Or have they to constantly scour the country in search of people with the ‘Mount Rushmore’ syndrome? We will never know.).However, there are sufficient seats available in the vast hall for us as we wait, and fortunately it has clean toilet facilities, but this whole waiting business grates on the nerves. Our number is 43. Eventually we are called. If you are not an American citizen do make sure your completed ‘visa waiver’ form is correct in every single detail, for even the smallest clerical error will find you returned to the back of the queue to try your luck again. On this occasion we’ve been good little form-fillers. We, and our documents, are scrutinized – with care. Our passports are stamped and – after being pestered, ‘Smile please’ by the ship’s official ‘snapper’. (We favour him with rictus grins) - finally make it to our cabin: ‘8242 Aft’. Accommodation: Our ‘Stateroom’ is clean and welcoming. The luggage has preceded us. We find adequate (just) cupboard and wardrobe space. There is an electric kettle with packets of coffee, tea and sugar provided. An ice bucket is filled. The ‘en-suite’ is small but well-equipped with bath towels, hand towels, face-cloths, soap and shampoo dispensers and a hairdryer. The shower is cylindrical in shape with plain white curtain. There’s hardly room in here for two at once, but if ‘fun and games’ are what’s uppermost in your mind then the ship’s ‘newspaper’ does offer a comprehensive - albeit, alternative - ‘entertainment’ programme. The cabin (‘stateroom’ is a euphemism too far in this instance) is good-sized, with a bed large enough to accommodate a couple of hippos. ‘Hippos? Well, already we’ve encountered fellow passengers whose combined weight will probably depress the ship a couple of plimsoll marks further below the waterline, and whose principle reason for coming aboard, we are soon to discover, seems to involve systematically masticating their way through a frighteningly large volume of the round-the-clock availability of victuals. The cabin is well provided with lighting including bed head lamps, a wardrobe light and, reassuringly, smoke-alarms and sprinkler system are in evidence. We find a refrigerator but it’s a tight squeeze to open the door in its confined location. There is a solid looking safe in another cupboard with foolproof - though, inevitably for some folk (is your name, ‘Simpson’?) probably not ‘dummy-proof’ - operating instructions; my wife gets her priorities properly in order by placing her multi-various assortment of pills in there for safe keeping. The bed has a pleasant green coverlet decorated with sailors’ knots (each is identified) against white-lined squares. (I just wished I’d brought a piece of string along for practice purposes). We find extra pillows in the wardrobe. The carpet is mottled blue and black weave, marked in a diamond pattern picked out in a gold and blue rope design overlaid in alternate diamonds with a ship’s wheel motif. There is a large mirror on the wall above the bed-head and another over the desk-cum-dressing table with individual lighting, below which are placed 110 and 220 volt sockets. There is a television with various shipboard channels along with a news channel from CNN. A detailed safety information notice is posted on the back of the cabin door with clear identification of which lifeboat station to attend in case of emergency – there are four lifebelts stored on the upper shelf of the wardrobe). There is a ‘controller’ for the heating/ventilation system, and on the wall by the door is a convenient holder in which to store our identity-cum-door-entry cards. Our balcony has two plastic chairs and a table with blue non-slip plastic flooring. We lean over the rail and watch a fuel barge arrive alongside. Seaplanes fly in and out of the harbour, and the views across to north Vancouver are quite delightful. The weather is clear, sunny and calm; the prospects for our voyage northwards look good. An ‘oiler’ on the barge far below responds to our waving. Sadly, it appears the poor chap’s hand has, at some point in the past, suffered a nasty accident as I can only discern a single finger (middle, I think) raised skywards in salute. Ah, what it is to enjoy the universal comradeship of seafarers, I think to myself. General detail: Following obligatory lifeboat drill (we are at Station ‘L’ to starboard) we look around the ship. It is modern and exudes an air of solidity, efficiency and order – but then the vessel was built in Bremerhaven, or Wilhemshaven, or some German ‘haven’ or other. Its corridors run for miles. Muzak issues from from innumerable speakers making me want to run ‘that extra mile’ to escape its cloying embrace. The central area of the ship features an attractive atrium which begins on Deck 5. It is served by two pairs of glass-fronted elevators which – when viewed from below – glide up and down somewhat disconcertingly like four huge, independently-hinged, unblinking eyes. Reception is here along with a ‘Shore Excursion’ desk. Opposite is a piano bar (The Java Café), and close by is the entrance to the Four Seasons dining room. After a stroll around the promenade on Deck 6, we mooch further around the ship to acquaint ourselves with the location of the various restaurants, lounges and bars before heading back to the cabin to shower before dinner. The ship’s ‘newspaper’ (‘Freestyle Daily’) details where, what and when events are to take place on board. It’s all fascinating stuff for the uninformed. I note, for instance, that tonight at 7pm in Dazzles Disco on Deck 6, ‘Einschiffungsinformationen auf Deutsch, mit Betreuerin Anja’ will take place – Ouch!. . . you’ll need a few stiff drinks before making a stab at pronouncing that one, buddy. (Oh, yes, and am I alone, I ask myself, in wondering why Germans are so fond of very long words? And are they, I further speculate, unduly prone to writers’ cramp halfway through these?). We set sail about 6pm. Ship’s Master Trygve Vorren is in charge. Considering the name of the ship it’s comforting to me to find there’s at least one authentic Norwegian sailor aboard, but for all my wife cares the rest of the crew could be a swarthy assemblage of piratical thieves, cutthroats and despoilers of the fair sex. (“Ha-har, me little dearie. And which of those, pray, will you be a-choosin’ for this evening, eh?”). My wife’s sharp nudge brings me back from my reverie, and we head for dinner. Dining: There is a varied choice of where to eat with NCL’s new(ish) ‘Freestyle’ dining policy. Should we opt for one of the clutch of small and intimate, specialist restaurants: Le Bistro, Il Adagio, or East meets West then we will be surcharged 15 US dollars each. Ginza (for Teppanyaki and Sushi lovers) has a varying surcharge dependent upon what you eat. (And, probably, how hard it’s still wriggling…..not for us, thank you). The main dining rooms on Deck 5, and a smaller one, Pacific Heights up on Deck 11 – whose menu is specifically designed for weight-conscious passengers - are surcharge-free as are The Garden Café and The Great Outdoor Café also on Deck 11. We gave Le Bistro a try one night, and although the ambience was very pleasant and the food excellent, we didn’t think it especially merited any kind of surcharge….it’s really all down to a question of personal choice: some people just like variety, whereas others might want to cough up 15 bucks apiece just to put some distance between themselves and the hoi-polloi. Earlier in the day we had looked in at the two main dining rooms: The Four Seasons is a large, bright, airy and pillared room with well-spaced tables freshly dressed with pristine white linen, sparkling cutlery and glassware. Behind the Four Seasons is located the Seven Seas (our preference for most evenings) which is similarly featured. However, this dining room can be accessed only by the elevators and staircases towards the rear of the ship, which possibly explains why - for the first couple of nights at least - it was only moderately patronized. The kitchens are placed centrally between these restaurants and so their menus are identical. Service is normally very good, from an international, pleasant staff, though if you like to share company at a large table do prepare to be a little more patient for your meal. If you are less willing to wait then, as we soon discovered, tables just for two do seem to enjoy far speedier service. (One morning, at a table for eight, we suffered a delay of 45 minutes before breakfast appeared). But, if you follow my advice, you can choose how long to wait – just state your table size preference when arriving at the restaurant’s reception desk. The food was invariably of a high standard. An added bonus is that these dining rooms come with views that test all the superlatives. Never before have we enjoyed meals with backdrops as spectacular as on this voyage through the Inside Passage. Blessed with fine weather – as we were - the scenery can so easily overwhelm the senses. At times it takes a genuine effort to turn away in order to concentrate on the food in front of you. (“Careful, my love, you almost had a nostril-full of spaghetti there!”). Fresh, iced water is provided with regular refills (don’t opt for the bottled variety unless you have a positive urge to throw money around). A comprehensive wine list offers very drinkable wines. They are not particularly cheap though, and attract an automatic 15 percent surcharge for gratuities. And I was singularly unimpressed by the invitation on the bill to add a further gratuity - but on reflection which decent restaurant did you last visit where wine was modestly and fairly priced? The one annoying feature of this restaurant was that the same, short selection of trite melodies was played over and over each evening, and though, initially, I thought it quirkily amusing to hear the theme tune from the movie, ‘Titanic’ among the selections, somewhere between the 3rd and the 300th hearing the novelty had faded. We spend the evening in full relaxed mode: my wife sits in the cabin reading a book whilst I enjoy the evening out on our balcony taking photographs and marvelling at the grandeur of British Columbia’s coastal scenery. Now and then our ship overtakes stubby-nosed tugboats shouldering their way patiently northwards hauling huge barges loaded with heavy metal containers, usually a single barge, sometimes two. Quite a number of sawn logs float by on the calm sea - clear evidence of one of the principal industries of B.C. Small fishing boats, mostly long-lining, probably for halibut and salmon, work their way to and fro between the numerous tree-covered islands dotting the coastline. Occasionally, I spot a tiny picturesque community on a far shoreline – usually just a huddle of brightly-painted houses, with wooden jetties for their boats. The sunset this evening is especially beautiful and seems to last for a long time We turn in about 10.30pm, and enjoy a deep, contented sleep. Day Two (at sea): We rise at the crack of nine. This must be as a result of the food, sea air and gentle motion of the ship. We take breakfast at the 7-Seas in company with couples from various countries: Perth, Western Australia; Kansas City, Missouri, and Calgary, Alberta. There’s plenty of time for conversation as breakfast takes three-quarters of an hour to arrive (as mentioned earlier) but we find the Aussies, Americans and Canucks to be engaging and diverting company, and they all say they like the ship. We spend the morning in various ways: walking around the promenade deck, (3-1/2 times around equals one mile); looking in at the library (good selection) and the shops, (Perfume, jewellery, liquor and ‘Souvenirs-R-Us’, is our overwhelming impression). Before you can say, ‘Jack Robinson’, we are beyond midday. My, how time flies when you’re having fun, eh? We see - in the ever-helpful ship’s newspaper - that in the Conference Centre on Deck 6, there’s to be a ‘Lifestyle seminar’ at 1pm, entitled: ‘What’s in a name?’, presented by John M Kitzmiller II. We reach the speedy conclusion that, at least where Mr K-II is concerned, the answer has to be eleven consonants, four vowels, and a Roman numeral, so we plump instead for lunch at the Garden Café. We are impressed with the hygiene here. Diners are obliged to ‘sanitize’ their hands before meals using special dispensers which provide a pearl of fluid which you rub into your hands and which dries very rapidly. (This mandatory provision also applies each time you board the ship). There is a plentiful and attractive variety of dishes on offer, and though it’s busy in here the tables are speedily and efficiently cleared, and we have no difficulty in finding seats. In the afternoon we look in at the ‘Grand Gala Art Auction’ underway in Dazzles Disco. The auctioneer is experiencing some difficulty in persuading a desultory scattering of voyagers to exchange some of their hard-earned cash for - what appear to my rheumy old eyes – to be little more than a procession of overblown daubs and prints, and which have probably been around the circuit more times than Michael Schumacher. That most of those present look to be somewhat less than ‘dazzled’ – indeed, some appear positively comatose - is possibly due to the auctioneer’s remorseless harangue. This is desperate stuff to witness. As each ‘unrepeatable offer’ is rejected, our auctioneer’s mouth moves from high gear into overdrive and beyond. I think this man knows a thing or two about rejection and failure. Perhaps – earlier in his career – he’s tried selling dictionaries in the Ozarks? Does he ever make a sale, we wonder? It doesn’t much matter. We don’t stay long enough to find out. However, at 4.30pm, we find an oasis of sweet reason and calm at a lecture in Dazzles given by Dr John Bindernagel, a Canadian biologist and wild-life expert, who tells us about the glaciers, mountains, shorelines and forests we will encounter on the voyage. He is a quiet-spoken, gentle man, slightly reticent - even shy - in character, yet someone who is clearly in love with his subject. It shows, and so it’s a pleasure to listen to what he has to say. It’s a great pity that just a mere handful of passengers have bothered to attend. He is a thoroughly engaging and interesting speaker. Had he been the auctioneer at the earlier event in here, I might almost have been tempted to buy a picture. The weather stays clear and sunny until mid-evening when a thick sea mist rolls in. After dinner we decide to watch a movie in our cabin. I’m fortunate, when going briefly for a breath of air on to our balcony, to find a sleek, modern Canadian pilot boat gliding out of the mist to position alongside our ship for the pilot’s transfer. It’s quite a sight, and I get off a couple of shots with my camera. Ports of call: We rise early on Tuesday morning, going out on the balcony just after 6.15am to find we have already docked at Ketchikan. The mist still swirls and it’s difficult to see far, but the sun is filtering through the murk and the weather looks set fair for later in the morning. Ketchikan’s unimpressive dockside is fronted with a parade of clapboarded shops – jewelry and souvenirs seem to feature prominently. .I see there’s a ‘Fish & Chip’ stall on the quay, but I bet they don’t serve that essential British accompaniment: ‘mushy peas’. Down below by the gangplank, a couple of the crew, dressed in bald eagle costumes are waiting, together with the ship’s photographer, for the first ‘marketing opportunity’ of the day. We hurry to breakfast and then we’re off to ‘debark’ (it appears Americans have junked the word, ‘disembark’) between the welcoming pair of ‘eagles’ (faintly sinister in appearance) just after 7.45am, and set off to explore the delights of Alaska’s first city. We arrive at historic Creek Street, built over wooden pilings, just as the shops begin to open for business and before the general horde of fellow tourists from the trio of cruise-liners at the dock have arrived. We meander in and out of shops; buy a couple of tins of locally-caught smoked salmon (and, yes, it was as delicious as we’d hoped it would be) and a couple of stuffed toy bears (‘Made in China’, wouldn’t you guess!) before we pay five dollars to take the tour at Dolly’s House – one of the great local attractions.. This proves to be one of the day’s highlights. Ms Dolly Arthur – who was herself in times past something of a premier attraction in old Ketchikan - had , long ago, ‘entertained’ gentlemen at her house, now beautifully preserved replete with all of her furniture, fittings and most of Dolly’s personal possessions, including some rare condoms woven from silk (very tightly, I trust) in Paris. These had a dual role, for Dolly was quite a seamstress, and had incorporated some of the condoms (dyed in various colours) into the decoration of a quilt. This multi-talented lady was also something of a bootlegger. Rowing boats would come up the creek at dead of night to moor under her house before transferring the illicit hooch upstairs, and Dolly must have supplemented her more traditionally-earned income quite handsomely with sales of the moonshine. In a room downstairs there hangs an old photograph of the famous lady holding a pet dog. When I looked closely at her face you could have knocked me down with a feather. For I could have sworn it was a still picture of Jack Lemmon – acting in drag - in the Billy Wilder movie, ‘Some Like it Hot’ with Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe. You’ll have to go look for yourself to see what I mean. There is also – on a desk in one room - an old Remington ‘steam’ typewriter, which still looks useable. Perhaps Dolly’s memoirs as a ‘Belle D’Nuit’ are lying in a yellowing bundle tied with pink lace, somewhere beneath the floorboards just waiting for discovery? Let’s hope I’m right; I’d buy the book without hesitation. ’The tour is well worth the modest price of admission. Afterwards we drop into the New York Café on Stedman Street for coffee. It’s a homely place and not a bit touristy. It’s worth visiting just to take a peek at the toilets here: as fine a set of antique ceramic fittings as you could wish to actively enjoy. We then walk up Deermount to visit the Totem Heritage Centre and the Salmon Hatchery. The latter is an exercise in the conservation of fish stocks that is no less than impressive, and great credit is due to all concerned with this enterprise. I was also impressed with the polite and friendly young man on the photographic counter at Schallerer’s Photo & Gift Stores on Front Street, who transfers my digital pictures on to a CD in just over 30 minutes, and at reasonable cost. We’re back on board for a late lunch. My wife then takes a rest while I photograph seaplanes landing on the beautiful Tongass Straits. Wednesday morning we’re up early to watch the ship gliding in to dock at Juneau. Breakfast at the Garden Café is very popular this morning. There simply isn’t room for everyone in here for this particular ‘rush-hour’, so many people overspill out to The Great Outdoor Café. We have a whale-watching tour booked for 7.30am. On the dock we soon find our tour bus whose driver is a native Tlingit by the name of Katherine. She drives us through light rain on the 12 mile trip out to Auke Bay (pronounce it, ‘Aaach’). There we are met by Joe – a wildlife expert – who takes us along to our jetboat, ‘Big Blue’, piloted by Captain Greg. Joe is a bright young fellow, and a relaxed and fluent guide, who reassures the nervous among us by telling us they are fully licensed and carry all the necessary safety equipment on board. Captain Greg - a tough-looking salt, who sports a gunfighter moustache, and whose permanent ‘five-o-clock shadow’, sprouting like a million iron-filings on an already grizzled face, and which is plainly impervious to the best efforts of the Gillette company’s products - eases Big Blue out over the bar at low speed before opening her up for a somewhat bumpy but exhilarating dash out into the bay. It’s just a matter of minutes before we spot our first humpback whale about a thousand yards distant, – and what a huge thrill it is to witness this gentle leviathan in it’s summer feeding grounds. There’s a rush to get out on the small rear deck to get some pictures. We are happy ‘snappers’ because there are at least two – possibly three – whales feeding here and we have a number of good sightings – ‘blows’, ‘humps’ and ‘flukes’, but no leaps. After some 20 minutes, The skipper tells us he’s going to head out to the Saginaw Channel. He says there’s a buoy out there on to which sea-lions like to haul themselves. We’re there in a few minutes and, sure enough, there are three or four of these huge creatures noisily disputing the prime spots. It’s a great sight to witness. But, best of all, atop the buoy sits a fine bald eagle, seemingly indifferent to the approach of our boat. Needless to say, he’s the most photographed bald eagle we see that day. We skirt around Hump Island and Shelter Island. Joe tells us one of these islands has a bear population of some 1500. We politely decline his invitation to stop off for a picnic. We watch two more humpback’s before heading back to Auke Bay on a more easterly course due to rough conditions. It’s still very much a switch-back ride though, with the boat smacking loudly into each wave– very noisy, but huge fun. On our return bus trip, Katherine entertains us by telling us something of the Tlingit culture. She tells us about the Eagle and the Raven moieties, (she was a ‘Raven’) and how, when her grandmother died, she was told gently – in the tradition of her people - “Grandma’s gone for a ‘walk in the woods’.” She teaches us the Tlingit word for ‘thank you’ – and here, I’m uncertain of the actual spelling, but it’s pronounced - ‘Aah-nach-sheesh’ (with a heavy emphasis on the ‘nach’). Her birthplace was Hoonah, and she drives the tour bus only as a summer job. Her main occupation is as a teacher on the ‘Head Start’ programme in Haines. She tells us her mother knew only Tlingit until school when she was compelled to learn and speak English – forbidden thereafter to speak her native tongue. She has the most wonderful head of hair, but then beautiful hair seems to be a common feature of these native Americans. We leave the bus saying, ‘Aah-nach-sheesh’ to Katherine. What a nice lady. We take a look at the town of Juneau and are distinctly underwhelmed. The majority of main street shops offer a mix of jewellery and tacky souvenirs, and although the surrounding scenery is unremittingly stunning, there’s been precious little of aesthetic value added hereabouts by human endeavour. In an art shop, we buy a small picture by the celebrated Alaskan artist, Rie Munoz, (now in her eighties, and still painting pictures full of sweet liveliness and guileless charm) whose work I discovered on the internet a couple of years ago. Then we reboard, or - and here I’ll tease our American cousins who have such a love of neologisms -‘re-bark’ the Sun through the security cordon of Ghurkas. (A word of caution to the unwise and unwary: These gentlemen from Nepal may appear to be mild-looking and relatively harmless, but in fact have gained worldwide respect as some of the fiercest and toughest men of action anywhere. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to cross them) Easing our way out of Juneau at 1pm, we head down the coast towards Tracy Arm for our visit to the Sawyer Glacier. We are told – by Dr Bindernagel, over a ship’s TV channel – that the overcast skies will provide ideal conditions for glacier viewing. Tracy Arm proves to be a place of almost tangible magic and mystery, full of secretive, misty valleys and majestic, slender waterfalls falling like wisps of sparkling silvery thread down almost vertical sided, granite-grey cliffs; trees and foliage shaded in rich, dark greens clad the lower slopes of the fjord; icebergs are now in evidence, usually white in colour, but now and then an opalescent blue iceberg drifts into view looking almost as though it were lit with subdued internal lighting; a myriad number of ‘bittyberg’s’ (tiny white bergs) now surround the ship; just occasionally, small craggy islets rise out of waters of ever-changing colour, appearing like Lorelei sirens calling wordlessly to the foolish and unwary. The ship is down to its slowest speed now, nosing its way delicately down the very narrow channel. The quiet, stillness and beauty of this wondrous fjord is almost a taste on the lips. And then, finally, the tidal glacier comes into view. We gaze in jaw-dropped wonderment at this great marvel of nature. It stretches far back towards snow-clad peaks. It appears to be formed like a massive series of densely packed, irregularly shaped ramparts of light blue ice, topped at intervals with a pepper- brown dusting of crushed rocks. Where it meets the sea it has disgorged a huge jumbled armada of icebergs of all shapes and sizes. As the ship comes to a halt about half a mile from the glacier, the sheer scale of this natural phenomenon is both hypnotic and awe-inspiring. And though I take a whole series of photographs I am already aware that none of these can ever hope to capture the true magnificence of the scene. We stay for an hour or so, although time really does seem to have lost meaning today. A large catamaran arrives back from the foot of the glacier to return those passengers fortunate enough to have had the foresight to pay 150 dollars for an up-close-and-personal visit – lucky people. Away on a small berg, a seal and its newly-born pup slide off their icy platform into the chill waters. The pup is immediately at home, swimming effortlessly alongside its mother off into the depths. A bald eagle arrives to feed on the afterbirth and is soon displaced by the challenge of a second, larger eagle. Nature red in tooth and claw, I think to myself. Yet another thrilling sight to add to this afternoon’s wonderful catalogue; truly these are indelible memories to take away, and to savour and treasure. Thanks are due to Dr John Bindernagel for his carefully chosen, restrained, and informative commentary during our visit here. Thursday morning and we are at Skagway. The Tlingit name for this place is Skagua. As we step on to the quayside, I tell my wife the name translates as: ‘Where the north wind blows’. Her tart reply has that sort of off-the-wall feminine logic which is utterly unanswerable: “And no place for short skirts and frilly undies”. As it so happens, she is wrapped in more layers than a large onion. We board one of the splendid, reproduction coaches of the White Pass & Yukon Railway for the 8.20am departure to the summit of White Pass. This is a journey we have eagerly anticipated, and it does not disappoint. The morning is cold but clear as we move off at a gentle pace. The train’s conductors are smartly dressed in old-style railway company uniforms complete with waistcoats, (American’s would say, ‘vests’) all fastened with bright, brass buttons, and topped with shiny peaked hats decorated with fine, gold braid. Commentary for the journey is provided by train ‘guide’, Kate - who relates the story of its construction. She advises to watch out for the track-side ‘mile markers’ – each of which has its own unusual tale to tell, for there is absolutely nothing along this route that can ever be described as, ‘ordinary’. No, sir! For this was railway engineering of an altogether different order, where thirty-five thousand men, using four hundred and fifty tons of explosive, risking – and often, losing - life and limb, expended their blood, sweat and tears to drive these narrow-gauge rails up from sea-level at Skagway to the summit 20 miles distant, at an altitude of three thousand feet. And, astonishingly - in overcoming some of the most hostile terrain and weather conditions ever faced by railway constructors - they did all this in just twenty six months. We can but pay thoughtful homage to their fortitude, tenacity and courage as we ride these hard won rails on this crisp June morning. This is not a journey for the faint-hearted, and certainly not one for those with a morbid fear of heights. To say, that for the greater part of the ride, the track clings to the mountain sides by its ‘finger nails’ is hardly to exaggerate. Indeed, at times, the views looking down can reasonably be described - on a verbal scale, at least - as beginning round about, ‘Good grief, that’s steep’, and ending somewhere just about at the point of, ‘Aaaaaaargh!’ And what’s the best bit? Well, that comes at the summit where the three giant, green and yellow diesel engines are unhooked from the front and re-connected at the rear, because then you get to go all the way back down again. To ensure equality of viewing opportunity, all passengers are obliged at the summit to do ‘The White Pass Shuffle’ – whereby all the hinged seat backs are swung into reverse, and passengers swap sides from right to left and vice-versa, before the return journey. Some folks might describe this as ‘Socialism in Action’ – but this is no place for politics and so I’ll move swiftly on. The snow and ice still lie deep up here, but Kate warms us with a string of very funny tales about the old days when gold fever was the principal infection in these parts. She relates how some innocent, newly-arrived prospectors in Skagway, were sold bicycles by unscrupulous salesmen, “So’s you can take a leisurely ride up to the gold fields.” Or, better yet, a few of the more gullible were actually persuaded to buy gopher’s which had – according to the sales pitch - “been trained to sniff out gold”. So is this where the catchphrase, “Go-pher Gold” originated? On the way back into town, we pass Skagway’s Gold Rush cemetery in which lie the remains of some immortal frontier characters, chief among whom was Jefferson ‘Soapy’ Smith, who must rank as one of history’s most admirable swindlers. Were he alive today he’d probably be CEO of a major American corporation. Soapy’s demise is celebrated with an annual commemorative wake by the townsfolk. (And if it isn’t celebrated in riotous style, then it darned well ought to be). Here too lies Frank Reid, who shot Soapy dead in a gunfight, and who also died as a result of the event. The inscription on Reid’s tomb declares: “He gave his life for the honour of Skagway” Just a few short steps away is the grave of another, less celebrated contemporary: one of Skagway’s good-time girls. Her inscription is not as worthy as Reid’s, but far more treasurable as, with a neat twist, it proclaims: “She gave her honour for the life of Skagway”. Also interred here are the unnamed - but somewhat less than complete - remains of a man who entered the local bank armed with a pistol, and with sticks of dynamite strapped under his coat. As he made his bold demand for an immediate withdrawal, the lady clerk panicked and ran screaming towards a back door. Our bank robber pulled his pistol in a vain attempt to shoot her. Unfortunately, he pulled the trigger just a little prematurely and thus blew himself, firstly into an unanticipated deposit all over the walls of the building, and secondly, straight into the golden pages of this legendary town’s history. We liked Skagway – very much as it happens. Yes, it’s a tourist trap – and deservedly so, because its townsfolk have had the good sense to steer clear of a surfeit of Las Vegas-style glitz and glamour in favour of allowing the natural, unvarnished pleasantness of the place to surprise and delight the visitor. In truth, I for one think Skagway could stake a reasonable claim to be declared a World Heritage Site. Not least for its magnificent setting, but more especially for the manner in which so many of its unpretentious, but lovely old clapboard-fronted buildings have been nurtured and preserved. This place breathes living history. Its fine boardwalks are a pleasure to tread, and its citizens have every right to be proud of their manifest determination to preserve its splendid character and charm. The W.P. & Y.R. is a brilliant peacock feather in its hat, and were it possible to bottle atmosphere, then Skagway would have a sure-fire winning export on its hands. The only disappointment I suffered here was when the battery on my digital camera expired, and I was unable to take as many photographs as I wanted to, but then as I had taken so many shots on the rail trip, I have no right to whinge. We depart Skagway and move off down the Lynn Canal. The weather is beautiful and the sun gradually sinks to a multi-hued, golden radiance behind snow-covered peaks to provide a lovely ending to the day. We join a large audience in the Stardust Lounge to listen to US comedian, Steve Patient. He does an excellent piece of Bill Clinton mimicry, and plays the guitar very well, but he struggles to get laughs. Cruise Director, Colin Kerr – from Scotland - also pitches in with a couple of jokes, but he has a predilection for interminable ‘shaggy-dog’ stories with vapid punchlines, and we return to our cabin feeling somewhat less than entertained. Wrangell is not as yet one of Alaska’s most visited tourist venues and relatively few cruise ships call , but NCL have chosen to add it to the Sun’s schedule and so we are here at midday on Friday together with the stern-wheeled, paddle-steamer cruise ship, ‘Empress of the North’, making our final visit to Alaskan shores. The afternoon is pleasant and the sun peeks through. We walk the mile or so out to Petroglyph beach, which is easy to find. Here the State authorities have kindly provided a wooden walkway and steps leading down to the beach, together with helpful information displays for visitors. We spend an enjoyable hour or so trawling the beach looking for as many of the 8,000-year-old rock carvings as we can find and photograph. A couple of derelict fishing boats also offer useful photographic opportunities. Later we go shopping in Wrangell. In Gold Rush days this was must have been quite a lively place because – for a brief spell - the famed Wyatt Earp was employed to keep the peace in town. Earp’s replacement was the equally feared lawman, Bat Masterson. Nowadays though, Wrangell lays claims to be, ‘the friendliest town in Alaska’ and although the time we spent here was relatively brief we can confirm that we met nothing but politeness and pleasantness. Wrangell’s charm has probably much to do with its unpretentious ordinariness and its homeliness. To date, this place remains happily free of those accretions that some other Alaskan ports-of-call, (most notably, Juneau and Ketchikan) seem to regard as essential: jewellery and souvenir stores replete with overly prominent advertising. And though many of the shops and stores here stock souvenirs and gifts, it is clear their primary function is to serve the local community - all year round The only tourist ‘traps’ at Wrangell’s quayside are a few rudimentary stalls manned by a number of cheerful school kids selling ammonites they must have painstakingly gathered in their spare time. They are an open-faced and likeable bunch, and we enjoy chatting with them. Back aboard the Sun, this evening is the ‘Captain’s Farewell Dinner’. We dine on lamb and rice starter; fruit sunrise with cassis; blueberry and kiwi fruit soup. I opt for the lobster tails; my wife goes for the chicken supreme. It all goes down a treat. In the morning the sea mists have closed in, and it’s difficult to see very much through the endless grey blankets of mist. The seas are moderately rough now but the ship ploughs through the waves at top speed heading back to Vancouver. The crew are busy polishing, vacuuming, dusting, keeping the ship in pristine condition – as always.. They seem happy in their work, unlike a few of the passengers who seem determined to complain about simply anything – just for the sake of being obnoxious. My wife overhears one rather unpleasantly loud American lady – who has lost something – demanding of a ship’s officer, that ‘this ship be scoured from stem to stern until you find it!’ As my wife tells me later: “I’m sure even if they did as she requested, it could take weeks to find a brain that small”. The Cruise Director (Colin) has arranged a whole raft of activities for bored passengers on this final day including a tour of the ship’s engine room, water treatment plant, the bridge, galley, etc. It’s tempting, but we decide to miss these little treats (and just how interesting can a 40,000-gallon bubbling tank of raw ship’s sewage be, I ponder?) in favour of a good brisk walk around the deck for an hour or so. We also pass on the opportunity to watch a reprise of the merry-go-round at the Grand Finale Champagne Art Auction…..too much like Groundhog Day, methinks. Why can’t the Cruise Director come up with a few more traditional ships’ activities to involve those passengers who have done their level best to annoy their fellow passenger’s and crew, you know, the sort of old-time stuff like, keelhauling, walking the plank, yardarm hanging and marooning. Now that would be fun, wouldn’t it? The weather is quite glorious the following day as we disembark in Vancouver. The disembarkation procedures are efficient and easy, and we leave the ship light in heart – if just a little heavier in body. We have four days ahead of us in which to explore this great city. Summary: The Inside Passage is a wonderful journey, and we felt privileged to have been able to enjoy such marvellous vistas. Whether you choose to enjoy it in the Norwegian Sun or some other cruise liner is just a matter of choice. In our opinion the Sun is a beautiful ship with an efficient crew, superb cuisine and service, and the modest price we paid was worth every penny. We did not feel the need to be ‘entertained’ as the entertainment we were looking for was all around and never failed to enthrall. This surely is as much as any visitor to the Inside Passage can hope to find. © Mike Davis, Manana Publications, England 2004.

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May 29, 2004

Alaska

We were celebrating our 30th anniversary on this cruise. We have been on a number of cruises with other lines but this was our first on NCL. What do I think of the Trip? I liked the ports of call other than the last one. Not much to do there. The Food: Not Great. I would rate this in the last place of all of our cruiese which total 7 The shows were pretty good but every where you turned it cost you money. The pushing of alcohol

was extensive. I saw passenger getting their alcohol confiscated from them when they came back from Ports of Call. On our return my larges piece of luggage was damaged. Ripped wide open on the corner. I tried to get it fixed but because of the damage done the repair was quite unsightly. So we purchased a new piece of luggage on sale for approximately $100.00 regualry $300.00 NCl was notified in advance of the damage. They offered us $9.00 for the repair and nothing more, even though we were in touch with Customer Service by phone and Mail about the irreparable damage.We never yet recieved the check yet for $9.00 and here we are 2 months later Probably stuck in the mail some where. Because of this handling of a seasoned customer in the cruise line industry, WE Will Never Travel on NCL again.

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May 1, 2004

Alaska

After six NCL cruises we were not going to cruise with NCL again, because of problems. Some friends wanted to take an Alaska cruise. They asked if we could make arrangements, the ncl sun was the best for the dates we wanted. They wanted a balcony so they could see the scenery .everything was going real well, when we arrived to cruise the glacier, there was a lot of ice , so for safety sake we would not go on.But then they said they would

sell pictures of the glacier to us ,what an insult. They could have given us one picture then people could have bought more if they wanted to. This was a special day and highlight of the cruise which we did not get to see. they ncl seem that they don't want repeat customers as they continue to make a part of the trip bad other cruise lines we have been on seam to make every effort to please there customers so they will come back not so with NCL we will not recommend NCL to anyone again thank you Vernon Smith and Angel Smith

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Apr 26, 2004

Pacific Northwest

First and LAST time on this line. NCL advertises "Freestyle Cruising". They need to remove the word "free". Not much is free on this ship. My past cruise experience found that the only extra charges on board were alcohol, and soda. On NCL, EVERYTHING is extra!! Of the 6 or so restaurants, only 2 were free, besides the buffet. NCL has a per person surcharge in all the other restaurants of $12-15!!!!! In the french restaurant,

my husband ordered lobster, and was charged $25 for it. I find it absolutely ridiculous that we were charged for food. NEVER experienced it on other lines. Very difficult to make reservations (which are a must) in these places. You need to call 2 days in advance to get in. The free places had an hour wait usually. Charges for exercise classes, computer classes, $30 for bingo (4 games), couldn't even get water in cabin without being charged $3.75. Tips are automatically included on NCL. $10 per person, per day! If you want to attempt to argue the charges at the end of the cruise they invite you to stand in a mile long line to fight with them. Tips should be up to the discretion of the customer. Did not appreciate an automatic tip on every soda I bought. Food in Seven Seas restaurant was terrible. Chicken tasted like rubber. All eateries, including the buffet had the same desserts every single night. No variety. Staff was extremely friendly and accomodating. We spent more on food and drink than we did on our ticket! Entertainment wasn't very good. Some of the better bands only played 1 hour in the evening. We were then forced to go to the disco, which was too loud and played annoying music. SHip was EXTREMELY smokey. Difficult to breathe in passing thru areas. Definitely would NOT recommend this cruise line.

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Apr 3, 2004

Western Caribbean

We made arrangements for flights to go along with our cruise thru Norwegian. We landed at Houston airport Sat morning the 3rd and it waqs a longggggg way from where the plane landed to where the buses would take us to the ship. It was not very well organized at that point and most of us were confused about where to catch the buses. This is the one area that really needs to be worked on by them. But,we got through it all and met some nice

people while waiting for the buses. It was a nice ride to the port and I have to say..my wife and I thought it went very smooth once we got there. They got us on the boat and through the prelim stuff easily. by the way..before you go..we would strongly urge you to pre-register online. It makes it all go smoother. Once on,we were directed to the cabin by a crew member and they were very nice. Our luggage got there a little bit later and had no problem. The rooms....well,they are cruise ship rooms and they are not that big,rather small; but..you are not in the room that much. The rooms had plenty of storgae. The bathrooms; hey,they did their job. They are compact..but efficient. This is not one of those huge new megaships,so you donot get a lot of luxurious amenities that they have. But, to use it was very enjoyable. You were able to mingle with more people and the crew seemed so much friendlier too. Always helpful,fast, and real friendly towards you. on our cruise we had the free style dining and it was wonderful! The serving staff was knowledgable, and again friendly and seemed happier to help you. at night, we either ate at the Seven Seas or the Four Seasons restaurants. The food was great ,the service was as good as we have received at any 5 star restaurants where we live(Cleveland Ohio). Personally, we do not think you have to go the the Le Bistro( the restaurant where you pay a small extra surcharge) for food and service. What we received at these couldnot be topped. Breakfast we usually did the Big Apple cafe and enjoyed the food and view from the dining room there. Plenty to offer in food. And also they served on the deck also at breakfast they made omelets and waffles outside,lunch they did the burgers and stuff, and early dinner they did burgers,ribs, and stuff like that also. And fruit..fruit all over the place. My wife and I scrfed down like it was no tomorrow on the fruit. Was good and fresh and cut nicely. The drinks do add up. And those drink servers;G-d bless them!!! They really pitched them all the time. One smart thing to do which we did;if you want to buy a drink and make sure you get the right amount of liquor in them; go to the bar. Order directly at the bar for drinks amnd they will sometimes add extra liquor at no extra cost if you ask. Another smart thing to do is to buy that soft drink pass for $30. This gives you unlimited soft drinks for the entire cruise. May seem alot at first,but it will save you in the long run. The casino was nice and the dealers were friendly and helpful. The shop on the ship was small but had some real good bargains. The liqour you bought there was cheaper then buying it on shore at any of the cruise stops. Lots to do with things always going on in the ship or you could just relax by the pool and enjoy the sun(okay..I admit we got lucky and had no rain and all sun during our cruise).The exercise room was small but adequate. It was never that crowded though and they did have a nice selection of machines. Our first stop was Cozumel. We decided to not take a tour but shopped for jewelry and things along the main drag. You have never seem so many jewelry stores in your life. You learn to bargain real fast there and we picked up some fabuous buys there. Silver was the best buy there and cuban cigars. of course..you had to smoke them before you got back to the states because it is considered contaband. In Cozumel..it is a lot better to use dollars as oppesed to the peso. A wonderful stop and enjoyed it immensely. Roatan Is land was our next stop. We took the Tabayan beach resort tour they had offerd. Was a long ride there but saw some wonderful scenery. It is a poorer area but some of the homes you saw were fabulous and spectacular views of the sea. The beach resort was nice,they served a nice lunch there and had a nice beach. The water was crystal clear and the sun was nice direct and hot. Relaxing and a nice respite. In Belieze, we took one of the Mayan ruin tours. The one with the ruin and touring he Old belieze river. The bus ridew to the ruins was about an hour and a half and it was quite a trip. Very exciting,bumpy, and adventurous. The ruins was a sight that should not be missed. Amazing,simply amazing. The river tour back was a chance to see some of the jungle and animals that lived there. We cannot say enough about it. Not to be missed. And..with the hot day..the water spraying in your face when the boat put the pedal to the metal was refreshing. Cancun had to be tendered to the dock. And there they start with the local vendors selling you junk. And it was junk on the boat. But they also provided comic relief when they sold out of something and miraculously pulled out the same thing again and again(was hilarious). We spent most of our time at the flea market called Coral Negro. We hightly recommend it.Great bargains (we bought some silver chains there)and extremely competitive among the vendors. By the way,you don't know what high pressure sales tactics are till you see there guys operate. it was a sight to sere and them go at us.One thing, in Cancun..it seems they prefer the peso as opposed to dollars. Checkout went smooth and was nice to be back in the states. A helpful hint by the way when you go on the cruise is to read that daily activity paper. Very informative and great for planning.   We would definitely go back on this cruise and the ship. We thought that most people who complained about this or in other reviews expected they were getting the Queen Mary and at this price you werenot. But, for the price we thought it was money well spent and a real bargain. The crew were nice,friendly,talkative,smiling, and genuinely happy to be serving us. The free style dining was a fantastic idea for Norwegian (you could go to eat very casual or dress up) . It was our best vacation since our honeymoon . A litt le P.S. before we go. At the captain's dinner..we had our picture taken with him. He looks an awful lot like Frazier Crane.

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Mar 21, 2004

Western Caribbean

Dear readers: My wife, sister in law, brother in law, and I recently completed our 2nd cruise on norwegian sun. Having been on the sun in 2001 and enjoyed the experience so much, we started planning for 2004. We booked our cruise in summer 2003 with hope we would get preferred air travel and upgrades. Well we got the upgrade from deck 8 to deck 10. The flights we could have got last minute. Flight down okay Ottawa 6am to Montreal, 10am

to Miami. Arrived 1 PM. NCI rep meet us .Put us on the bus to the Ship. Got into Latitudes line at the dock, only a few people in line. (Note this the only time on the trip that being a Latitudes member would mean anything. So much for being a repeat customer). The Room we had been a balcony unit, our companions were a cross the hall in a large inside cabins. Both rooms are very nice. The ship sailed, destination Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Costa Maya. And Cozomel Mexico. All the ports of call were great; we opted to just walk around these towns and shop shore excursions very pricey. The second day out we began to feel the great expectation for this cruise we beginning to fade. Very poor service in the Garden Café and outdo café. Their seemed to be a shortage of staff which snowballed the rest of the cruise. In the main dining rooms service was fine as was the pool deck and bars. Of coarse they make money in some of these areas. We also give 10 out of 10 for the room cleaning staff. they were great. The second day out there was an invitation to latitude member’s cocktail party. Their re prizes including a free cruise for 2. It started at 4pm and lasted till 4.45 there were free drinks if you could get one. Three servers for 300 people. We managed to get a drink at 4.25 never saw the food trays. It turns out you had to stay for the bingo afterwards and buy tickets for this free cruise. Another free giveaway included with our tickets was free pull on a slot machine for another free cruise. Consolation prize you get a free film developed if you bought their 24.95 picture of you coming on board. I m laughing at NCL. We never did here of anyone winning a few cruise. What really disappointed us the most was the food. Having been on the sun before we so enjoyed the meals in both the café and the main dining rooms. We ate 2 dinners in the main Prime Rib 1 night, Lobster another, both very good. The other nights the menus were very fancy, some of the item ii could not tell you what they were so we opted to eat in the upstairs café. This was a big mistake as half the ship was doing the same thing. The café has 3 serving stations for meals of which all are open for breakfast and lunch. Dinner I guess doesn’t rate because only 1 station is open. Long lines, food service trays empty, no choice on cuts of meat, (I like rare meat, only well done available). Pork chops served on 4 nights and other items so spiced up you could not eat them. Another problem was their coffee machines; they have 6 in different areas of the café. On 4 days out seven 4 machines were broken and 2 were empty. When you able to get coffee it were so strong people were watering it down. There is one food item I would like to tell the readers about. I like scrambled eggs, Norwegian sun Version am egg soup, egg floating in water. This just gives s you an idea of what they was serving. Another serious problem in there outdoor café. The outdoor chair was stained and dirty. Some mornings even wet because they hose down the area just before breakfast. What a treat. The staff cleaning the of dishes in this area seem to be striking against the company because no body was working very fast. Disembarkation was terrible. Our flight that Norweigan had booked for us was out of fort Lauderdale at 7:15 at night. We were the first people to have to get off the ship. We had to wait an hour for our bags to come off and were surprised to find them damaged. My sister in laws nearly ripped open had to fill out claim for damaged goods. We don’t expect they will do anything for us. They bus us to the airport 900am. Waited till 3pm to get rid of our luggage Because air Canada would not take it early. Our flight arranged by NCL Fort Lauderdale 715pm to Toronto, 1215 to Ottawa. When we get to the ticket counter we find out there is a direct flight to Ottawa leaving at 605 PM arrive Ottawa 915 PM and there were lots of open seats, so we changed our tickets. NCI did a very poor search jobs for us. NCL if your reading This you lost us as customers. We will do our own Flight Arrangements In future. I’m hopping other passenger on this cruise do the same with a review. Norwegian needs to wake up. We spent almost 10,000 dollars and were very disappointed. Brian Mckellar Ottawa, Not. Canada

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Mar 14, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was my first and probably my last cruise. Prior to cruising I didn’t know much about cruises – my mistake! I love to travel and after cruising have come to the realization cruises are for people who want to vacation but do not like to actually travel. This is not the vacation choice for people on a budget. The boat itself was nice enough – basically it’s just a huge hotel you can’t leave. It mostly consists of the guest

cabins. There were lots of restaurants and bars, altho more than half of the restaurants are an additional charge. I only ate at the included “free” restaurants. Basically be prepared to spend A LOT of money. Don’t be fooled into thinking that approx. $1,000 for the cruise includes anything. If you want a glass of juice at any time other than breakfast – be prepared to pay $1.73 for it. You are automatically charged a 15% tip for every transaction and you are charged $10 a day per person to cover gratuities for your cabin stewards and restaurant staff (even if you eat at the buffet and keep the do not disturb sign up). Even if you don’t buy the outrageously expensive shore excursions ($45 to $100+ per person) – be prepared to pay for transportation to anywhere beyond the port, and admission to everywhere. And bring cash for shore excursions – anywhere that takes credit cards will be very expensive and the on-boat ATM charges $5! If you plan to buy anything at the on-board duty free shop, wait until the last day when everything is 20% off. The food is ok. It’s not great, after all it is mass-produced, but it’s not awful. There are very few choices for vegetarians. I was disappointed in the healthful options. The two main sit-down restaurants featured one appetizer, one entrée and one dessert from the Cooking Light recipes they boast – but if you don’t like that one choice, you’re stuck with the full-fat menu (about 4 or 5 choices in each category, and the menu changes daily). The wait staff was hit or miss. We had a different server every meal and some were awesome and some were terrible. I was there as part of large group of friends and we found the restaurants simply could not accommodate all of us at once, even when we called ahead and let them know we would be a party of 15. Even if they gave us a large table (2 out of 4 times) we were not served at once, with a full 5 minutes or so between first meal served and last. The buffet changed daily as well, although there were some constants (burgers, hotdogs and bad pizza everyday for lunch, assorted breads, cheeses and fruit at all times). The salad bar lacked peppers, carrots, radishes, and low-fat dressings. Other than the limited salad selection, there were no healthful choices (even grilled fish was sitting in a pool of cream sauce) and the buffet had extraordinarily limited vegetarian options. The buffet sits between the back stairs/elevators and the pool, so it is not only a restaurant but also a major thoroughfare. No matter where you sit expect high traffic walking by you at all times. The coffee was awful everywhere, all the time. The 2 pools look small considering the size of the ship, but once you go in them you understand why they were always empty – they were always freezing! The hot tubs seat about 6 to 8 adults and were always crowded. While sitting poolside – get a towel early, they ran out of them by mid-day (altho I must say the staff was very quick about picking up used/abandoned towels to free up empty chairs!) We were asked approximately every 7 to 10 minutes if we needed a drink, even if we had a drink in our hands. Beers average $3 each if you buy 6 at a time, $4 individually. Mixed drinks are $5 to $7. All drinks include an automatic 15% “autogratuity” and you pay per drink - you cannot run a tab, even in a restaurant. If you get your “souvenir” cup refilled it’s a $1 off the drink, so save your last cup of the day, to bring out the next day! There are 24 computers in the “Internet Café” and they were never all occupied. I logged on for less than 10 minutes and was charged $17. As for shore excursions – be prepared to wake up early. Also be prepared to not see the country. At least 1, if not 5 other cruise ships joined each port we stopped at. At an average of 4,000 passengers per boat, that means the majority of people you encounter at port will be cruise passengers, and the whole area surrounding the port will be solely a “tourist trap”. At Jamaica, if you did not buy a shore excursion, don’t bother with the “shopping”. Just take the bus or a cab ($7 per person) directly to the beach. The shopping is just a bunch of tourist stores selling over priced t-shirts and such. Vendors, cab drivers and people who want to braid your hair will constantly harass you. If you go to Dr. Cave’s beach (admission $5 p.p.) you can get your hand stamped for re-entry. You can walk to tourist shops, the post office and Margaritaville. The beach has a bar that sells limited food (burgers $2) and drinks (Red Stripe $2, soda $1). You can rent chairs and umbrellas ($7-9) and snorkel masks ($5). There are large trampolines floating out in the water for all to enjoy. Once you are ready to re-board the ship there are a few more tourist shops for shirts, knick-knacks, liquor, jerk sauce, etc – these ones take credit cards. On Grand Cayman when you get to port find one of the independent tour guides (there will be plenty!) and take the $15 island tour (if you buy an excursion, you will probably be able to do this quick tour afterwards). They will take you to Hell (trust me, the 15 minutes they offer is plenty of time), to the turtle farm (additional $4) and the Tortuga rum factory. The whole tour is short and will still allow you plenty of time to shop and walk around. You can rent snorkel gear (mask, fins and vest) for $12 or scuba gear for $75. You can take a submarine tour for $80. Some friends bought the boat’s stingray excursion and were very unimpressed. Beer on Grand Cayman is expensive at $6 a bottle. The US dollar is very weak there. At Costa Maya we were warned there is nothing to do if you don’t buy an excursion, so we bought the Mayan ruins tour. It was very crowded as a few hundred people from our cruise also bought it, as well as a few hundred people from the other ship, the Grand Princess, which was also at port that day. Despite the crowds it was awesome to see the ruins and our guide was well informed. If you take this tour, bring water (or they sell 12 oz. Bottles for $1 there) and wear comfortable shoes as you will be walking and climbing stairs it the hot sun for a few hours. By the way the warning about nothing to do was not at all true. On our way to the tour buses (the ruins were approx. 1 hour drive each way) we passed through what can only be described as an outdoor Mexican themed mini-mall. There was a kiosk in the center selling independent tours – horseback riding, kayaking, mountain biking, etc (and much cheaper than the ship’s similar tours!) There is an American-Mexican restaurant, a man-made beach and a pool in the mini-mall, as well as plenty of stores. Remember no price is final – you MUST haggle with these vendors or be totally ripped off. I got an enamel hair barrette for $8 – the first vendor wanted $35 for it! At Cozemel we took a cab ($9 p.p.) to the Parque Naturale (admission $12 p.p.) where we settled under permanently installed umbrellas on weird little beach seats. The beach is man-made, as Cozemel does not naturally have sandy beaches; rather the water ends at a rocky coast. There are stairs cut into the rock at few places to easily get in the water, which gets deep (over 6 feet) almost immediately. We rented snorkel gear (mask, fins and vest) for $9. This is the place to snorkel! There were beautiful fish and sunken sculptures to see. The park also has a nice nature trail with Mayan replicas and plenty of lizards! Buckets of beer ($12 for 6), brought to you by waiters on the beach include a bag of chips and VERY spicy salsa. Overall the cruise, while pleasant was so expensive I couldn’t really enjoy it. If I had simply been charged an extra $500 up front perhaps I would be less annoyed, but to pay so much and still get nickeled and dimed at every turn with automatic tips (don’t they stop being “tips” when I have no choice but to pay?) and not one single free beverage served to me other than coffee and water in a sit-down restaurant. And while the ports were awesome weather, I don’t travel to see 20,000 other Americans – I want local culture, which is simply not an option as a cruiser.

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Feb 8, 2004

Western Caribbean

Introduction: This was our fifth cruise to the Caribbean on NCL. The Norwegian Sun is one of Norwegian Cruise Lines Freestyle Cruising ships, which I will describe later. The itinerary from Miami was as follows: Day 1 - Arrival at pier in Miami - set sail by 6:00 pm Day 2 - Day At Sea Day 3 - Montego Bay, Jamaica Day 4 - Georgetown, Grand Cayman Day 5 - Costa Maya, Mexico Day 6 - Cozumel, Mexico Day 7 - At Sea Day 8 - Disembarkation

in Miami Getting to the ship: The Norwegian Sun sails from Miami, and the pier is located in the cruise ship terminal with all the other lines. Depending on which actual pier you are on can make the entry process easy or more difficult. This time we were very fortunate to be in the newer area, and things really went quite smoothly. We had booked our air with NCL and had bus transfers direct from the airport to the terminal. The Sun begins boarding at around noon in Miami. We arrived on the pier around 1:30 PM, and had about a 15 minute sign-in process. The latitudes line was very short compared to the regular line. There were no glitches or signs of anyone complaining about long embarkation lines this time around that I overheard. Cabins: We booked a guaranteed inside cabin, and our resulting cabin was on deck 7, forward on the starboard side. The cabins seemed a bit larger than those of it's sister ship the Sun, and we seemed to have plenty of room. We found this room to be very convenient to the atrium area. In the center there are 4 glass elevators. For some reason, a lot of people preferred to wait (and wait and wait) for these, rather than use the other elevators located near the stairs in both the front and rear of the ships. Here's a hint: If you don't want to wait long for an elevator, use the normal elevators. However, at the end of a day, when people are coming back on the ship, use the atrium elevators, as the normal ones are crowded with people re-entering the ship. Deck 5 also houses the two main dining rooms, the Four Seasons, and the Seven Seas. The specialty restaurant Il Adagio is also squeezed in on Deck 5 between the two main dining rooms. To get there, you actually have to go to deck 6, and taqke a small staircase down to Deck 5. There are small shops on Deck 6 in the atrium area, as well the Dazzles nightclub/disco, Windjammers Bar, Havana Cigar Bar, and the Photo Shop. The Stardust Lounge is also located on Deck 6 as well as 7 for the main shows. Deck 7 houses the main shops, and coffee bar, and the casino. Deck 11 is the pool deck, and Deck 12 is the Observation Deck. Deck 12 also contains the Observation Lounge at the front of the ship. Deck 11 contains the Outdoor Cafe (for buffets) and the Garden Cafe (also for buffets) at the rear of the ship. Pacific Heights, which feature only Cooking Light menus is also located on deck 11. The Spa, and the gym, and the Sports Bar are also located on Deck 11. Ginza, the asian restaurant, and Le Bistro, the french specialty restaurant are located on Deck 12 in the rear of the ship along with Las Ramblas Tapas bar and restaurant. Restaurants: The Norwegian Sun offers 2 main restaurants, a buffet and 3 alternative dining restaurants to choose from. The intent of “freestyle cruising” is to give the Sun’s passengers a wide variety of choices for dining pleasure. The three alternative dining restaurants (Le Bistro, Ginza and Il Adagio) all require an additional $12.50 cover charge. They also require reservations as well. The following is a breakdown of the various restaurants: Garden Café (Deck 11, aft): This is the main buffet of the Norwegian Sun. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is a fun and quick place to get a meal. There are food items like waffles, various egg dishes, cereal, fruit and so on for breakfast, pasta and various poultry and meat items for lunch and a separate dessert cart are always available to enjoy. The seating is both inside in the café or you make also sit outside by the pool or on the fantail of deck 11 by the Great Outdoor Cafe. The Great Outdoor Café (Deck 11, aft): Just aft of the Garden Cafe are two separate buffet lines that are open early for breakfast and lunch (primarily on days at sea). It offers the mostly the same food as the Garden Cafe but it has a larger selection of fruit and cereals for breakfast. Also good for a quick bite before that shore excursion in the early morning. The Seven Seas Restaurant (Deck 5, aft): This is one of two main restaurants that serve breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant dining. Of the two main dining rooms, this one offers the best views (ask for a table near the rear windows) and quick service in our experience. It is a lot less crowded, especially on the formal night as everyone seems to stay near the atrium and the Four Seasons. One reason people tend to avoid the Seven Seas is since you have to go all the way aft, it is a little less covenient than the Four SDeasons, but that just makes it easier to get in quicker. The Four Seasons Restaurant (Deck 5, midship): This is the other main restaurant (along with the Seven Seas) and offers the same menu as the Seven Seas. It is located just outside the atrium area of Deck 5, and being so convenient, it tends to be more crowded. Service is good, but plan on requiring at least two hours for your full dinner here. We enjoyed several meals here. Le Bistro (Deck 12, aft): Le Bistro is the french alternative restaurant that serves mediterranean style cuisine. The restaurant is a wonderful experience and offers a complete menu in a beautiful setting. The $12.50 cover charge is well worth it. We had two wonderful dinners here. It is rather high on the ship, so if you are less tolerant of movement, be aware that you feel it a bit more up top. The staff was amusing and very very attentive. Ginza (Deck 12, Aft): This is the Asian restaurant. We did not take advantage of this restaurant. The menu seemed to be a melange of sushi and asian, with a heavy dose of seafood. Il Adagio Restaurant (Deck 5, midship): Located on Deck 5, between the main dining rooms, this restaurant is slightly harder to find. Even on the last night, people were still asking for directions. The menu is very interesting, based mainly in continental italian cuisine. We didn't get to try it, but several people expressed that it is very good. Las Ramblas (Deck 12 Aft) : This exotic bar/restaurant features a rich selection of hot & cold tapas from around the world. We didn't try them however. Sprinkles Ice Cream Bar: The Ice Cream bar is located next to the Garden Cafe, and is open every day from 1:00 to 4:00 PM. Lines tended to form right at 3:00 PM, but if you waited a bit until it was a bit later, you wouldn't have any wait at all at the counter. Great ice cream, and it makes me wonder why anyone would pay for the Hagen Daz stuff the charge for at the pool deck. Special Buffets: The Norwegian Sun offered only one special buffet on this cruise. The signature “chocoholic” chocolate buffet where everything is made from chocolate was held on the last afternoon. Cakes, pies, fruit dipped in chocolate, moose, cheesecake, fudge, you name it and if it was made with chocolate they offered it. I only managed to make it partially through the line before my plate was overflowing. One nice touch is that they will offer to transfer your chocolate to a "to go' plate so you may take it back to your cabin. Interestingly, there was no picture time scheduled... so if you were not first in line, it was pretty much disheveled if you wanted to take pictures. The contents were fabulous however, and very delicious. Since they hold this at an afternoon timeframe, dress is very casual and come-as-you-are. Entertainment: Entertainment on the ship is scattered throughout. Of course, there is a casino. Every night there is a sail-away party on the pool deck. The band there was a reggae style band, and was pretty good, called Roots Link. There is live top-40 style music in the Dazzles Disco, although the musicians were not quite as talented as the poolside band. In Windjammers, there was a piano player who also sang. The main shows were adequate and located in the Stardust lounge. They ranged from magician acts, to little broadway ensemble shows, to singers. There was another "swing" type of band (Glenn Miller music) located in the Observation Lounge. They seemed to do pretty good, although that was not my cup of tea. Karaoke was also offered from time to time in the Observation Lounge and also in Dazzles. All in all, most of the entertainment was enough to keep you busy, but nothing to write home about. I think NCL could take a lesson from Carnival and improve the talent of the entertainment. There were also lots of activities available like bingo, and art auctions as well. We mananged to score several great bargains on art work this cruise. Shore excursions: There were two types of shore excursions. One were the ones categorized as "Dive-In" and the regular shore excursions. There were excellent choices among each. The Dive-In excursions involved snorkeling or diving with NCL's own instructors as well as the tour operators. NCL is the only line that actually hires it's own diving and snorkeling instructors. These guys were fun to be with and made the excursions safe and fun. We did both types of excursions (shore and dive-in) and for the most part we were very satisfied. Ports and excursions: Montego Bay, Jamaica: we did the "Discover Jamaica" tour which included a lunch, and a walk up the Dunn's river falls. It was a lot of time riding and a little time actually doing and seeing. Dunn's River falls is beautiful, and we had a good time there. Lunch was OK. Georgetown, Grand Cayman: This port requires tendering. There were seven (yes, 7) ships in port on this day, so the pier was extremely crowded. Fortunately, we were on our own for excursions, and we dragged our dive equipment down the street to a little dive shop called Eden Rock. Eden Rock is great, because you can dive directly in front of the dive shop on two nice sections of reef called "Devil's Grotto and "Eden Rock". Both little sites contain grottos and swim through caverns and tunnels and great sea life. The best part is, if you bring your equipment, it costs very little compared to ship excursions. The two of us dove twice off shore for a total of $35 US COMBINED. Costa Maya, Mexico: Well, we had booked a tour of some Mayan ruins this day, but alas, we were unable to dock due to higher than normal winds and another shipp blocking the pier. We went for an extended stay in Cozumel instead. Costa Maya is a relatively new stop for Mexico, and there is not really much of a pier or anything there except beaches and a few shops. Cozumel, Mexico: Cozumel is always great, especially when you get to stay longer. We got to stay overnight after being sent away from Costa Maya because of high winds. On this island, the diving is superb, and since we hadn't had the chance to book one ourselves, we partook of the ship's dive excursion. The diving was great, we saw lots of great coral and critters, including huge eagle rays. The crew was especially happy for the extra time in Cozumel to unwind. Freestyle Cruising: Freestyle cruising is great. Basically, what this allows you to do is to have the freedom of choosing who, and when, and where you want to eat every night. Basically, we choose what time we wanted to go to dinner and showed up when we felt like it. Except for the specialty restaurants, reservations are not required. You can sit with as few or as many people you like to. I would recommend that if you have a party larger than 8, make arrangements with the maitre'd of whichever main dining room you wish to be in ahead of time, as it may be hard for them to set up the proper table for you. The tipping is also automatically added in to your final bill. At a rate of $12.00 per day per person, we found this to be a bargain. It had no appreciable impact on level of service that we could decipher. Freestyle also applies to leaving the ship. You can basically leave whenever you would like, thereby avoiding any lines if you are flexible enough. Summary: We both enjoyed this two weeks immensely. We would recommend cruising on the Norwegian Sun heartily. I can honestly say there was not a single thing I could find to complain about this particular week.

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Dec 7, 2003

Western Caribbean

My wife and I sailed for a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Sun on December 7, 2003 from Miami. We are both in our late fourties. This was our 7th cruise, having previously sailed 3 times with RCI, and once each with Celebrity, Holland America and NCL. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on the Norwegian Sun. I’ll cut right down to the chase: “Would we sail on the Norwegian Sun again?” The answer is a resounding: “YES!”

Please sit back and read on to see why. I bought this cruise through an internet auction firm. That was a first for me. The only details I had were the ship’s name, itinerary, sailing date and the fact that I was bidding on an inside cabin located somewhere on the ship. The whole process was over in 20 minutes and I saved a bundle. When the deed was done, I started seeing scam stories on television involving internet sales and auctions. For a while there, I was afraid I had been defrauded. That was definitely not the case. We received our tickets about 3 weeks before sailing, at which time we found out our cabin was on deck 8 aft, also known as Viking deck. We always choose an inside cabin as a matter of preference because my wife needs more sleep than I do. No daylight ever reaches an inside cabin. People brag about their balcony cabins. I am so glad they enjoy them; it leaves more inside cabins for us. We would fight the cruise company tooth and nail if they tried upgrading us to an outside or balcony cabin again. We’ve been there, done that and she hated it with a passion. Being in an inside or outside cabin doesn’t cause me any joy or sorrow. The trip from Montreal didn’t start well. Upon arrival at Fort Lauderdale airport, we discovered all our luggage (3 suitcases holding 130 lbs of our stuff) had been sent to the Dominican Republic. We did have a few items of clothing at our Fort Lauderdale condo, but nothing that would allow us to get dressed and go for dinner on the ship. We had flown a day earlier than embarkation. We were promised the luggage would be waiting for us at the ship the next day. Yeah right! If you believe that, I’ve got lovely farm land for sale that I could show you at low tide. We slept our condo and packed a fourth suitcase with whatever few items of clothing we had left behind last winter. We then headed for the stores bright and early to buy a few essentials. You guessed it: the luggage wasn’t waiting at the cruise terminal, as promised by the airport staff. Embarkation on the Norwegian Sun was a breeze. There was no waiting in a cavernous hall like cattle, or anything that even remotely ressembled that. We had requested that a wheelchair be waiting for us at the terminal and there it was, by the terminal’s front door when we got off the Avis shuttle. We reluctantly gave our one suitcase to a baggage handler, fearing that this one might be lost too. Someone was assigned to push the wheelchair through the terminal, quoting safety regulations. We proceeded to the registration counter where our passports and tickets were checked. We were photographed for security purposes and an imprint of my credit card was taken. Our cabin’s keycards were issued. A lost baggage report was completed. Everything was extremely efficient and courteous. Meanwhile, NCL’s terminal supervisor contacted the airline to locate our lost luggage. We were then whisked onto the Norwegian Sun in no time flat. An hour later, the terminal supervisor left a message on our cabin’s voice mail stating that the luggage had been found and would be delivered to the ship 3 days later, on Wednesday. The travel industry keeps quiet about the fact that luggage travels much more than its owners. Lending a suitcase to friends who travel less often than us only partly explains that discrepancy. The ship is nicely laid out, well appointed, very clean, with bright and airy public areas. Most of the greenery adorning the ship is fake but not dollar-store stuff, so it hardly shows. You have to move in close to realize that. If you sail on the Norwegian Sun, please remember that the most efficient elevators are those located forward and aft. Each of the four glassed-in elevators inside the ship’s atrium holds a maximum of 6 or 7 adults. Everyone wants to ride those. They are always full and typically stop at every floor. The atrium is the heart of the ship and many public rooms and services are located around it. You might need to ride the forward elevators often. You’ll get to your destination quicker if you avoid the atrium’s elevators and use the forward elevators, located 25 feet away from the atrium’s elevators. Our cabin, No. 8127, was located aft roughly 75 feet from the four aft elevators. We thoroughly enjoyed its roominess. Please bear in mind we’re talking about a cruise ship cabin. Roomy ashore and roomy on a ship aren’t the same. The closet space was more than adequate. In addition to the queen size bed, we had a comfortable sofa, a desk and chair, small night stands, a safe and a refrigerator. There was even enough leftover space to park the wheelchair out of the way. The cabin’s door snaps back behind you tighter than Tupperware and managing to keep the door open while wheeling the wheelchair out was a feat worthy of Cirque Du Soleil. Make sure you have your room’s keycard in your pocket before you even touch that handle. The cabin’s shower is your typical cylindrical phone booth where you can soap yourself up and spin against the walls for a quick wash. It was nonetheless very efficient and one never runs out of hot water on a ship. All in all, the bathroom was small but very efficiently organized. Towels and washcloths were meted out with exacting retenue, to the point where we felt we would need a notarized statement, should we require an extra washcloth. The housekeeping staff (Aivanka and Jerry) kept that cabin squeaky clean at all times. We wanted to bring them both home with us when we left. They were very helpful in procuring us with a large ziploc bag for my wife’s ice treatments at night. We had packed some ziploc bags before leaving home, but they were circling the globe in our luggage at that time. We obtained the extra ice we needed from room service at the end of each evening. As you may have guessed, my wife is not as mobile as she once was. Her condition may stabilize, but it won’t improve. Traveling with a wheelchair was a new experience for us and will become the norm in future cruises. She will own a power chair by the time we cruise again. A word on power chairs and scooters for people with reduced mobility: for safety reasons, only devices powered by gell cells are allowed on board NCL ships. Every time we got to a dining room, someone would take charge of the wheelchair, help her move from the wheelchair to a regular chair, park the wheelchair and repeat the process in reverse when we left. The dining room staff on the Norwegian Sun is most personnable. Although the ship’s Freestyle policy isn’t conducive to building a rapport with your waiter and busboy, we still enjoyed the attentive service we received in the dining rooms. Speaking of Freestyle, we thoroughly enjoyed the concept. Our last cruise lasted 10 days, out of which 7 nights were the evening’s dress code was either sports jacket, shirt and tie or formal. I work in a suit and tie and it’s a refreshing change to be able to go for dinner every night wearing what NCL calls “casual resort wear”. That was a big plus for me. Big item here for most cruisers: FOOD. Before we boarded the ship, I had read reviews where people compared the food in various venues on the ship. In my view, one may not realistically compare the Great Outdoor Café with the Garden Café, the dining rooms, the speciality restaurant’s cuisines and Room Service. To me, it’s just not logical to compare these various options. They just aren’t the same. The Great Outdoor Café’s food is truly informal and great once in a while, specially if you are in a rush or if you feel a sudden yearning for a hot dog or hamburger. One step up from that is the Garden Café, where you can pick up truly nice food in a very pleasant, air-conditionned environment with a view. You may even take your tray to the pool deck or the Great Outdoor restaurant. They are all connected. The Seven Seas and the Four Seasons dining rooms are very nice and, understandably, serve more formal dishes than the cafés. Another step up from the dining rooms are the specialty restaurants. We tried the East Meets West (asian), Le Bistro (french), Il Adagio (italian) and Pacific Heights (californian) restaurants. The overall dining experience in these 4 specialty restaurants can only be described as truly superb and well worth the cover charges. There is no cover charge in the californian restaurant. One of the ship’s best kept secrets is the Las Ramblas tapas bar located in a quiet corner of the ship, on deck 12 aft. Unless you go exploring, you may very well miss it entirely. The room’s atmosphere is intimate, lighting is subdued, soft spanish instrumental music is piped in when musicians are not present and they close the blinds after the sun sets. They serve delightfully spicy, warm or cold spanish tidbits every night, free of charge and without reservations. We enjoyed a pre-dinner drink and tapas there on 4 separate occasions. Try to experience Las Ramblas early in the cruise. You’ll be back often. We did not go to the show every night but the shows we saw were truly entertaining. Most memorable were Elvy Rose’s two shows. We had seen her on the Norway in 1996 and we were delighted to find her again on the Norwegian Sun. We also saw a magician’s act (I forget his name) that was very good. He bills himself as “The Misfit of Magic”. His act is a cross between a stand-up comic and a magician. The Jean-Ann Ryan reviews were enjoyable and seemed a bit more elaborate than previous reviews we had seen on other ships. The addition of an olympic gymnast among the cast spices things up quite a bit. Their performance of Cirque Pan was a bit busy, and loud for my taste but my wife enjoyed the show tremendously. I must have been tired that night. The “Encore, Mr. Producer” review was also very well done. The ship’s photographers will take pictures of you at every possible opportunity. If you plan on purchasing them, let them take all they want. In any case, you are under no obligation to buy anything. However, don’t buy them before the last day of the cruise, where you can take advantage of the White Elephant sale and buy every picture they ever took of you for a flat rate of $100 (if I remember right). If you are photogenic, had a lot of pictures taken and want them all, that’s a good deal. This time around, we were spared having a costumed pirate put a plastic sword to our throat while we smiled for the ship’s photographer. As Martha would say, cocking her head to the side: “It’s a good thing”. Any liquour purchased on the ship will be kept in storage until the last night of the cruise. Any liquour purchased ashore will suffer the same fate upon returning to the ship. You may try smuggling some liquour on board in your luggage at embarkation but I don’t know if the bottle will reach your cabin before being impounded. I purchased the all-you-can-drink soda card on the first day of the cruise ($27.50) and found it to be a good deal if you drink sodas. You’ll see a lot of people walking around with bright red metal Coke cups. Be warned that the bar waiters who refill these cup will process a drink purchase before a soda refill. They make 15% on the drink purchase and I don’t know if they get anything from the drink card sales. We had purchased a good-quality set of walkie-talkies to keep in touch with each other on the ship. They would only work if both of us were on deck. We have seen other people using the same kind of walkie-talkies without any difficulties. The Gods decided to laugh, I guess. After lunch, towels get scarce in the pool area. That’s understandable. Women are way more creative then men when using towels. By the time they used two towels to cover their chair, made a pillow, a sarong, a turban, dried themselves and stashed one in case of emergency, 7 towels bit the dust. All that will go into the wash at lunch time and the odds are good that the same number of towels will be used in the afternoon. There’s no way the ship’s laundry can keep up with such intensive usage. If you have an afternoon excursion where you need to bring a towel with you, you had better go get it early in the day and keep it in your cabin. Having a Columbian Emerald International store right there on board the ship was a bit of an overkill. You can’t cast a stone in the islands without hitting one of those stores and now there is another one of these places, right smack in the middle of the ship. Is NCL afraid someone will slip into a gemstome-purchasing-withdrawal syndrome during a day at sea? Enough with C.E.I., already! One thing I truly hated occurred in Ocho Rios (Jamaica). The ship docked at the old, decrepit Mineral Dock when less than ¼ mile away from there lies a brand-new, apparently safer, modern cruise ship dock, where RCI’s Explorer of The Seas berthed. There was room left for us there. Docking fees must be significantly lower at the Mineral Dock. If you head into town on foot from there, as I did, you are confronted with wave upon wave of harmless, unusual-looking and extremely persistent locals offering you whatever it is they have for sale. I didn’t mind, as they are basically non-threatening. I swear if I had purchased marijuana everytime it was offered to me, I would have needed a green garbage bag and a porter to bring it all back to the ship. One must also contend with the many purveyors of services of a more personnal nature. We didn’t encounter this kind of thing before when we docked in Ocho Rios at the other, more upscale dock. All we faced there were nice self-employed ladies who offered to put beads in our hair. Debarkation was even brisker than embarkation. We had made our own travel arrangements to return to our Fort Lauderdale condo. We were scheduled to leave the ship around 9:30. We had just finished breakfast in the Four Seasons dining room when our colour tags was called. It was 8:50. We made our way to the gangway. They swiped our room keycards one last time. We waved goodbye to the cruise director and BOOM! we were in the terminal, waiting in line to meet the nice folks at Immigration and then Customs. Security reasons be damned, noone was available to help me with the wheelchair. At this point, I was pushing my wife’s wheelchair, while pulling along a train of 5 pieces of luggage weighing about 180 lbs behind me. If I could have simultaneously balanced a dinner plate spinning at the end of a stick on the tip of my nose, I would have been hired by a chinese circus on the spot. All in all, cruising on the Norwegian Sun was a pleasure and we’d do it again in a minute. The next time I feel the irresistible call of the sea, I’ll be just a few clicks away from bidding on another cruise. Happy cruising and smooth seas to you all. Sylvain Forest E-mail: lourspolaire@yahoo.com

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Nov 23, 2003

Western Caribbean

The best thing about NCL Sun is the freestyle crusing. It was really great. We ate at different time each night, either by ourselves or shared a table with others. There was a bit long wait for dinner at the main dining room (either Four Season or the Seven Sea) for people with a big group. As for small groups, the wait was short, especially if you didn't mind sharing the table. The food was great with upscale menu selection. If you want

to try different foods, this is the ship to go. If you want the all American food, it was served everyday and night as a staple. So whatever your taste is, you would find something you like. The only disapointment was the buffet. The selection was poor at breakfast. Pancake and French toaste were served only once during the week long cruise. But it was open 24 hours a day everyday. The ship was beautiful and looking new. But they allow smoking in many bars so we smell the smoke in the atrium and other public area. That was offensive. Plus our room had the smoke odor when we walked in. Good thing that we had a balcony room. We open the door to air out the smell throughout the trip. Our room was nice and very clean. The attendents came twice a day to clean and then to turn down in the evening. We took shower after touring the island then went to dinner. When we got back from dinner, our room was made up with clean towels and the bathroom was spotless. All the mess was gone. Great hosekeeping service. Our ports were Ocho Rio, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel. The ship tours were expensive so we didn't take any. We did our own research & booked tours on our own. It worked out great. Had a great time and save a lot. There were a lot of bad things said about Jamaica. We took the general advice and didn't walk around by ourselves. We booked a day tour with a local Chef & Libby. It was $100 for 4 of us. So it came out to be $25/person. It was great. Chef waited for us few yards from the gate at the pier. We told him what we like to see and he took us there. He also took us outside Ocho Rio to see the real Jamaica, where people were friendly and not aggressive. By no means, Jamaica is very poor. There are million dollar mansions along the shore and then shaky shacks by the hills that the tin roof can easily be blown away by a storm. We toured the island in the morning. The went to Dunn's River Fall in the afternoon, when most of the tour groups were gone. The park cost $10 to get in. But once inside, it's like a different world, pretty and clean and friendly staff that would get out of their way to help you, from renting water shoes to guide you up the falls. Since all the tour groups were gone, we had the falls to ourselves. We took the time to climb it and stop often to take pictures. When we were ready to leave, Chef was waiting for us at the park entrance to take us back to the ship. That was $25 well spent day tour. We didn't have to pay up front. We paid Chef when he dropped us off back at the pier at the end of the day. I highly recommend them. Next stop was Grand Cayman. This was a tender port. We didn't buy a tour with the ship so we had to wait for an hour to get on a tender to go on shore. That was a waste of time and ignoring. We booked the Stingray city snorkeling tour with Native Way Water Sports. They have people hold up a sign at the pier where the tender drop you off. They collected people and put us on a small bus. The drive to the marina was about 20 minutes through a nice town. Then we boarded a small boat out to the bay to snorkeling for 30 minutes. Then onto Stingray city to encounter the rays. The tour was $25 and we paid at the end of the tour. Another money well spent. Next stop was Costa Maya. This is a new port in the Caribbean. We didn't find much info before the cruise. We wanted to take a 1/2 day ruin tour then spent the afternoon on a beach. This is a beautiful port with very natural scenary. The most natual out of the 4 ports on the cruise. We booked a Chochoobean ruin tour with a local vendor when we got to the pier. He was located to the left by the pink wall in the shopping plaza at the pier. It was $45. But the cost was only the ride and ruin entrance. We had to pay a guide to show us around and explain the ruins to us. The guid was only $25 for 6 of us in the group. But it was decivisng that we thought it was included in the tour. My suggestion is if you have 2 or more people in your group, negotiated a deal with the taxi driver to take you to the ruin and wait for you to take you back to the pier. The Chochoobean ruin was 1 hour ride from the pier each way. It was on newly paved highway so it was an enjoyable ride through the marshes and the flat wilderness. After the ruin tour, we went to the beach right off the pier. The sand was nice but a bit dirty with trash. It was rocky we had to wear water shoes. We stay on the beach until dark, a few minutes before the ship depart. Then walked back to the ship before sailing. Last port was Cozumel. Like Grand Cayman, it's a very commercialized town with stores right off the pier. Taxi were everywhere. We did shopping in the morning. Then took a taxi to a beach near the pier Playa Azul for a quick swim. The taxi was $3 per person. The public beach section was very small, 50 feet long. But it was sandy stretch with hotels for a mile. There was fresh water outdoor shower and a restaurant. Taxi were also waiting to take people places. It was a nice quick get away. On our way back, the taxi driver asked for $5 per person. We bargain it down to $3 since that was what we paid getting there. Taxi fare was pre-determined before you get in the car. There was no meter. So make sure you agree on the price before getting in. Have small dollar bills ready for taxi since they don't give you change back in U.S. dollars. Overall, it was a great trip, great value for the price of the cruise. We would take the freestyle crusing over the traditional ones.

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Nov 23, 2003

Western Caribbean

We went on the cruise during the week of Thanksgiving holiday. The ship was filled with families with children and teenagers. In fact, all cruises had the same passengers profile during the same week. If you don't like children, don't go on a cruise during the week of Thanksgiving. NCL customer service was great. We arrived at the Miami international airport the day of the cruise. There were representatives waiting at the gate to greet

passengers. I mean you saw them the minute you step out of the plane. They directed passengers to the luggage claims and the shuttle bus. We didn't purchase the airport transfer from NCL because we were going to take a taxi to the pier. We asked the NCL representative about the transfer price, it was $12/person each way. Not a bad deal if your group was less than 3 people. We decided to take the shuttle instead of taxi since the price was reasonable and they took your luggage directly from the airport to your stateroom. It was a short 20 minutes ride from Miami airport to the cruise port. The check in process was a breeze. There was no line when we arrived at the cruise port at 2:30. There was a waitress walking around with refreshing ice cold water to greet passengers at the check in room. Great service continued. It only took us 20 minutes from the time we arrived at the pier to get to our room. NCL had the usual picture taken spots for every Kodak moment by NCL photographers. At the gangway, there was a NCL staff to pass out antiseptic tissue to each passenger to clean the hands. That was a great service. And it didn’t stop there, they hand out antiseptic tissue at every port when we return back to the ship. They also place the antiseptic pocket napkin at every buffet tray. In addition, there were clean wipes next to each public computer for computer users to wipe their hands before and after using the computer. NCL was germ phobia and kept things and people very clean. Pubic Rooms The name of the ship was SUN, so the decor was red and orange throughout the ship. The atrium was toward the front of the ship rather in the middle. It was a nice atrium but not too big. There were bars everywhere and it seemed like smoking was allow in all bars because the smell of smoke was in all public areas. The main disco lounge was the Dazzle. They had most of lectures and shows in Dazzle. It was freezing cold in there. Ladies, remember to bring a sweater when you go there. The casino was good size and it always seemed to be busy with good spirit gamblers. There was a hallway parallel to the casino for none gambler to walk through. A great feature that not many ships have. There were 2 pools and 4 hot tubs on the top deck. The pools were salt water and they were drain and scrubbed every night. Another clean feature of the SUN. The pool was also a wave pool and produced big waves that splashed over onto the hot tubs and deck. Fun place to be in if you like waves with no sand. The only downside of the ship is the design of all public rooms. They were not easy to find and you had to walk up and down the stairs to get to places on the same deck. So you really need to use the map placed on all strategic point to find your way around. Freestyle The best feature of the ship was freestyle. It really meant that you could eat at one of the several dinning rooms during their hours at anytime. There were 2 main dinning rooms, Four Season and Seven Seas. The Four Season restaurant was located on deck 5 across from the Reception Desk. It was centrally located and easy to find, also more busy than the Seven Sea. The Seven Sea restaurant was located on the same deck 5 at the back of the ship. Even though both of the restaurants were on deck 5, you had to use the stairs to go from one to the other. The Seven Sea restaurant wasn't easy to find. So it was less crowded and no wait at the first 2 nights. Slowly people found their way to the Seven Seas as the week went by. Menus were mostly the same for the 2 main restaurants. Dinning at the SUN was like going out to a restaurant. The wait wasn't long for most nights. If you didn't mind sharing a table, the wait was only a few minutes. While waiting for a table, we had appetizer at the tapas bar so the wait wasn't bad at all. The variety and quality of food were excellent. There were a lot of small tables so small groups could have their own tables. The Garden buffets restaurant open 24 hours a day. The food was very average and we only ate there when we had to. The buffet food serving stations were small and not well placed. There was always a line at breakfast. The breakfast selection was limited; pancakes and French toast were served only once on our cruise. However, they had melon carving station and fresh melons were served at all times. Desserts were similar to those served at the main dinning room. So if you want to pick out, Garden buffet was the best place to go. Dress code for dinners were smart casual. Most of the people did dress very nicely for dinner. It was an environment that you could dress up as formal as you want or be casual and comfortable. Either way, you wouldn't feel out of place. There was a formal night at the Seven Sea restaurant so everyone dressed up. If you didn't want to dress up, you could go to the Four Season restaurant. However, most of the people prefer dressing up every night. It was an elegant scene at dinner every night. On the other hand, there was the Garden buffet and pool side buffet that open to anyone who just want to have a bite to eat and not worry about dress code. The other nice service was they put out a snack table by the casino every night. For those who missed dinner because they were so caught up with their bets, snacks were right around the corner. Stateroom Our room was on deck 9 forward with balcony. The room was clean with plenty drawers and closet. There were 2 twin beds and a sofa bed. The sofa bed opened to a full size bed. 2-3 people would be comfortable in the room, 4 would be too crowded. It was great to have a balcony that we could walk out to get fresh air and see the port without going up to the top deck. The bathroom was small but very functional. They fitted everything in that small area. Great water pressure for the shower. The toilet was vacuum kind, like the airline ones. It was noisy to use. Do make sure you didn’t clog it because one clogged toilet would affect 50 others. That was one fact that you wouldn't forget on the ship. The room attendant was great. She came and cleaned our room twice a day while we were at breakfast and dinner. Nothing better than coming back to a clean room when we left it messy. The only disappointment was we didn't have any towel animal left in our room. We heard about them but didn't see one in our room on our cruise. The Show There were different show performed every night. These were nice productions of Broadway musicals and dances. I think they were more enjoyable by adults than children. People with children may find the lack of children's entertainment at night. But kids should be in bed by then. Ports There were 4 ports on this cruise, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, and Cuzumel. They're many excursions for each port and they were expensive. If you want like the security of ship excursion and didn't mind spending the money, then take the ship excursion. If you were independent and want to save money, then buy the tours from the local vendor when you get onshore. Each of these 4 ports were different but they all accept U.S. dollars. No need to exchange to local currency. Just remember they didn't provide change back in the U.S. dollars so have small bills for taxi and other small purchases. It was windy throughout the curse so snorkeling wasn't good. Went to Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rio, Jamaica. Had a fun time to climb up the fall. It was suited for all ages. There were guides to take you up the falls if you needed help. Great place to spend the day in Ocho Rio. Went to Stingray City in Grand Cayman. Great opportunity to feed and touch the stingrays. Went to Chochooben (spelling?) Ruins in Costa Maya. If you went to the ruin on your own, make sure you paid a guide to show you around. There were guides at the entrance to tell and sell you their service. These were knowledgeable guides that spoke English well. You could negotiate a price and it was well worth the money. Otherwise, you were just walking around in the jungle with some pyramid ruins and didn't know the history and significance of them. Went to a beach in Cozumel. Did some shopping there. They sold typical tourist stuff, not much different than other ports. Cozumel was clean and well pointed at the water front where the ship docked. Freestyle also applied to disembarkation. The night before, there were baskets filled with different departure time tags in the main lobby. You chose the time you want to leave the ship. Then you packed your suitcase and placed them outside your room the night before, just like other cruises. The big difference was that you didn't have to be out of your room and stayed in a lounge the day of disembarkation. You could stay in your room until it was time to leave. That was one of the many great services NCL provided.

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Sep 6, 2003

Alaska Inside Passage

As an avid traveler and cruise lover I submit my review with great disappointment. It is of my vacation to Alaska via the inside passage which I looked forward to for almost a year. I travelled with my mom Leila whom I shared an outside cabin with and my two best friends Andra and Debbie. We arrived in Seattle on September 5th in order to take in the sites there and in Vancouver B.C. since both places were highly recommended by friends.

Having been on cruises before I knew the chaos and havoc that can be apart of the embarkment process so we arrived dockside almost two hours ahead of the allowed boarding time of 2:00pm. Going through baggage pickup and check-in was pretty painless and handled very swiftly and efficiently by Norwegian's dockside staff however it is now time to board and that's where things started to go downhill. Upon boarding we were immediately accosted by the Photography dept. which is quite normal of all cruise ships, what wasn't normal was the attitude and downright rudeness of the camera staff when my mom and friends refused to have their pictures taken. I approached shooting video tape and was told that I couldn't shot the ship and was told to shut off my camera. I was in no way intruding with their silly cruise ship photos or trying to get behind their backdrop for my own family photos so I was annoyed at being spoken to rudely and hustled up the gangplank. But we boarded without too many words being exchanged. Finding cabins 6023 and 6024 was our next dilemma and quite funny to find that the map of the ship and staff members we encountered along the route were of no help at all! Some of the funniest lines we heard on the ship over the next few days were "I've never worked on the sixth floor before"..."there are no stairs to the twelfth floor" and three days into the cruise "this is my first day on the ship". So it became apparent to us that Norwegian employees were dumb, shackled with chains that only exceeded certain boundary lines and were frequently helicopter in when afloat. Our first day was at sea so we used this time to get acquainted with the ship and it's ammenities. Here again we encountered certain areas of the ship that wrecked of raw sewage and actually met a man from Brooklyn who had paid the extra bucks for a balcony that was unusable for two days because of the smell. He reported the smell both times with no results and on the third day the smell was gone. We came to the conclusion that dumping waste at sea was a possibility? Our ports of call were Juneau...the largest city with too little time spent there, we had prebooked the Mendenhall Glacier tour with Tempsco Helicopters our pilot Nerry was funny, informative and got us to and from safely. My mom and I had never flown in one and were a little nervous. The views were breathe taking, we felt like we were on top of the world. When we returned we shopped and had a drink at the famous Red Dog Saloon. Next stop Scagway...a little town with just the railroad to boast about, We booked with Norwegian only because the only available booking with White Pass Yukon Railroad itself was the 4:30pm excursion. The cruise ships buy up the earlier times when in port. The shopping here was better and cheaper but we didn't know this until we got to Ketchican. So if your smart you'll shop in Scagway because these towns sell the same thing ( alot of it is crap that's made in China, anything handcrafted is unaffordable) We enjoyed cocktails at the Red Onion and the entertainment was a lot better than that found on the ship. Ketchikan was the nicest stop in Alaska, very quaint also not enough time in port, we took a sea plane to the Misty fjords which we prebooked with Misty Fjords Air and Outfitting our pilot David Doyon Jr. It had to be the best part of our trip and highly recommended. Nice family run operation our flight was actually postponed for one hour to ensure greater visibility and enjoyment of the flight. Due to the changes we never got to Saxman's Village which was up the road from them we were told many people miss the ship in Ketchikan and have to be sea planed out. While we waited for this tour we walked up Creek Street to the salmon ladders which was awesome. The salmon were running and it was so unbelievable how many were in the water or dead on the rocks. The smell was a little hard to take. Sawyer glacier our next at sea day was beautiful and we were told that we had the best view of icebergs for the summer. Due to the danger we could only come as close as a mile and a half to the glacier itself (the furthest viewing for the summer). Too much time was spent in the canal at the glacier which could have been spent getting to Victoria. Bring lots of layers of clothes, a rain slicker, gloves and a hat if you expect to be on or near the glaciers. The weather was milder than we expected between 50 and 55 in all Alaskan ports and Victoria which I will not review because it was a ridiculous stop of 4 1/2 useless hours. By the time we got there 6;00 were allowed to debark 7:05 and get to town the shops and restaurants were closing. The Butchart Gardens were of no interest to us at $20 per person, we're New Yorkers and can go to the Botanical Gardens for free. I did however want to see the Craigdarroch Castle and was quite disappointed that it closes at 7:00 pm everyday. So Why the stop in Victoria at all? I was informed by a fellow passenger that it's a law that every cruise ship must have at least one foreign country stop when sailing in US waters. So now back to my problems with this cruise: 1. poor port itinerary, not enough length in port for Juneau, Ketchikan and Victoria, too much time in Scagway and in Glacier Bay. 2. Horrendous entertainment onboard ship (we had Jimmy J.J. Walker and Wes Epau a 70 yr old singing Hawaiian cowboy)what more can I say! 3. Poor ship appearance and smell. 4. Freestyle dining is a good idea that needs to have the kinks worked out to avoid delays at peak eating times. It is also probably the main reason why the service was poor. With the tips built in to everyday where is the incentive to serve with a smile, some charm or even common courtesy. Doesn't TIP stand for To insure performance? I will give my recommendations for food prep, presentation and service with accolades to Lisha hostess at Seven Seas, she saved us a table every night with our favorite waiter Charlie Soriano from the Phillipines, Marta Kobszynska from Poland his assistant and Rosalia our Maitre'D whom we all tipped extra. They were pleasant, funny and made our evenings the best spent. The only other place we spent as much time was the gym, which was well equipped, clean and kept the pounds off. We were all glad we saw Alaska, all of us know we are probably not returning but are grateful for the memories from each city. I do however see myself returning to Seattle and would love to see Victoria by day at least once in my lifetime. Norwegian Cruise lines got my money once and that was one too many for me!

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Aug 30, 2003

Alaska

My wife and I were part of a group of 16 people taking this cruise. Check-in was easy and smooth. NCL staff were especially helpful to a couple in our group who forgot their passports. After boarding, we had a nice lunch at the buffet and then returned to our rooms to find our baggage waiting. Our inside room was ample in size and beautifully designed; there was plenty of storage space and the bathroom was adequate though compact. The

room was very quiet with little sound from the hall and none from the elevators. On our first night, NCL gave our group a complementary one hour cocktail party in the Observation Lounge. We celebrated the ship's sunset departure from Seattle with a nonstop flow of hors d'oeuvres and drinks in a lovely setting. Our first stop was Juneau, where my wife had a nice whale watching trip (hers was Orca - I heard the one sponsored by NCL was better) and my kayak trip was cancelled due to rain. I took a bus to see the Mendenhall Glacier. Some of our group rented a limo for a tour around the city. Overall, we had a decent day despite the weather. The next stop was Skagway. We rented a car and drove into the Yukon to a town called Carcross. The weather was lovely, and the scenery along the way was stunning! We also visited the old miner's cemetery and Reid Falls in town. Those of our group who took the rail trip also enjoyed their adventure. Terrific day. We visited Glacier Bay the next day. Fortunately, the weather was clear though cool. A couple of Park Rangers boarded the ship and provided useful information about the glaciers. The ship pulled up very close to the glaciers, giving us some great photo ops. The next day was Ketchikan. The weather was lousy, causing us to cancel a float plane trip to the Misty Fjord Park. We spent abut 4 hours walking around the town and shopping. Our last stop was Victoria. This was a wasted port call. The ship did not dock until after 6PM and departed before midnight. We didn't even leave the ship, though some of our group spent a couple hours walking around the town. Now for the ship. Service was uniformly excellent. The cabin crews kept our room spotless. Room service was efficient though the menu was limited. And the restaurant staff was surprisingly attentive (in light of the freestyle tipping policy). Getting on and off the ship for excursions was handled efficiently, while assuring that non-passengers did not board. Overall the food was very good. We ate most meals at the Seven Seas and avoided the buffets. The number of choices for each course was astonishing, and most of them were creative, interesting and tasty. We had a spectacular dinner at Le Bistro - as good as any 4-star restaurant. The Freestyle seating concept worked perfectly for us. Our entire group ate together 3 times, and the rest of us just showed up in groups of 2, 4 or 6 at other meals. There was rarely any wait for seating. As for entertainment, we saw two very good theatrical reviews. Some of our group enjoyed the art auctions and casinos. We skipped the lounge acts. Overall, we had a hell of a good trip. My only suggestion to NCL would be to realign the port calls so that there would be ample daylight time at each stop.

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Jun 21, 2003

Alaska

INTRODUCTION As a travel agent of 10 years with several cruises under my belt, this was my first cruise to Alaska. I have been to Alaska before, but the first trip was an interior trip in a motor home. I may add that there were no travel agent discounts on this trip. I paid retail as a Latitudes member. I booked the trip about 2 months prior, and booked my wife and three children ages 3, 4, and 7 in a Balcony Category BC room (8040).

An interesting note is that there are only 8 cabins on the SUN that will accommodate 5 people. 4 are Balcony cabins, and 4 are inside cabins. This is rare for most cruise lines with the exception of Carnival who will allow 5 in any cabin with a rollaway. As far as the air is concerned, I booked my own air using Delta into Seattle. The price was only 240 RT from Fort Lauderdale, which is far below what NCL was offering. PRE CRUISE SEATTLE STAY We arrived in Seattle 2 nights prior to the cruise. I booked a room at the Hilton Homewood Suites in downtown Seattle. We rented a car from Avis. The parking at the Homewood is 9.00 a night, and is indoors and secured. The room was nice although smelled of smoke. The breakfast buffet was adequate, and very crowded after 9 am. The first day, having arrived there at 1030 am, we ate lunch in China Town (very good Dim Sum at the China Gate) After that, we napped for a while, then drove downtown to take in a movie. I was surprised how early everything closed downtown, even on a Friday night. Still on East Coast time, we got back to the room late, and slept in the next morning. The kids did so well. The next morning, we drove 20 minutes to Chittenden Locks to watch boats go through the locks, and a salmon ladder. This was a great excursion, and the best of all, it was free! We then went to the Flight Museum where we were able to board Air Force One, the actual plan used by Nixon, Kennedy and Johnson. After than, we drove to Pikes Market, and walked around downtown. We also visited the Seattle Aquarium which the kids loved! Back to the hotel for a nap, and dinner at Anthony’s at Pier 66, a family friendly moderately priced seafood restaurant. We woke early on Sunday morning, and arrived at the pier at about 10 am to drop off our luggage. After that, we drove to the downtown Avis location and turned in the car. It was a 5.00 cab ride back to the pier from there. I think the car total was about 70.00 for the two days. Not bad considering a cab ride from SEA is about 25. EMBARKATION We arrived back at the pier about 1045 and checked in at the Latitudes check in area with no line whatsoever. We were escorted to a special waiting lounge for Latitudes members which was well stocked with juice and pastries. As soon as the ship was ready to receive passengers, (about 1130 am), we were promptly escorted onboard with no lines at all. We were onboard and in our room in no time. After exploring the room, and checking out the balcony, we started off to see the rest of the ship. (and make dining reservations and Mandara Spa appointments) STATEROOM I will say again that we have been on many ships, both new and old, and I must say that this was the most well appointed stateroom we have ever had. There were many nooks and niches to store things. The bathroom was of normal size for this category. I’ve been in a lot smaller, that’s for sure. The balcony was smaller than usual, but nice none the less. There was a hook for securing the door, which we left open every night. How nice it was to hear the water at night. It was never too cold to leave the door open. There were two chairs and a small table on the balcony. The room was equipped with a king bed, king pull out sofa bed, and an upper berth that would easily accommodate 5 people, especially smaller kids. The décor of the room was nice as well include with a television with many channels to choose from. I would note that my cell phone had service throughout most of the week. I was able to make and receive calls right from the room with my cell phone most of the time. My only complaint on the room would be that there was a “dirty mop” odor in the bath room most of the time. I spoke with the cabin steward about it, and he replied that it was coming from the drains. If we kept them covered, the smell was minimized. FOOD Let me begin by stating that I am very picky when it comes to cruise ship food. It takes a lot to please me. I will say that by a good margin, this ship had the best food I have had in quite a while at sea. We first ate in the Pacific Heights dining room (the healthy alternative) The food was not great but good nonetheless. Everyplace else that we ate was superb! We dined in both 4 seas and 7 seas dining rooms, Le Bistro, and Las Ramblas, and found the food to be wonderful. Even the casual buffets were great. No complaints on the food at all. We never made it to Ginza’s, East meets West, or Adagios, but I understand it was good as well. I will note that the menus in both the main dining rooms are different. The meats are the same, but prepared differently. In addition, room service was also great, with a delivery time of about 30 mins in most cases. As far as the service, I will say that I believe that the “freestyle” concept regarding automatic tipping, and dining at different tables each night, affects the waiter service. I would say that 3 of 7 nights, the service was below par. Don’t let that discourage you though; the food is worth the wait! We took advantage of the unlimited soda program for 28.75 for a sticker on your key card. With that you could get a soda at any bar, and any restaurant with no additional charge. No need to buy more than one, as they never checked the name on the card. CHILDREN'S PROGRAMS As I stated before, we have three kids, ages 3, 4, and 7, and all were enrolled in the Kids Corner program. I will say that compared to Caribbean cruises, the kids staff has a great schedule….for them that is. The programs operate much less than Caribbean sailings and those folks have a lot of time off. The kids loved every minute of the programs which on sea days, ran 9a-12p, 2p-5p, and 7p-10p. With the freestyle dining, we were able to feed the kids either through room service, or the buffet, then drop them off for their program, then a romantic dinner for two, a little casino action, and a show or dancing before picking up the kids at 10. When we picked them up, we would take them dancing for a bit, then off to bed. We didn’t partake of the evening baby sitting at 11.00 an hour for the three kids…way too much money. ENTERTAINMENT We were able to make it to two of the Jean Ann Ryan productions, and I found them to be very good. I have seen better, but these were good nonetheless. The comedian was very amusing as well. The ships cruise director, Paul Baya was very funny and very involved in many activities, as was his staff. There were art auctions almost everyday, the usual progressive bingo (complete with Bingo Matic electronic bingo devices) They seemed to really push the ships lottery cards, called “Krack-its”, which got progressively cheaper as the week pressed on. There were plenty of shows, lectures, computer classes, etc to keep one busy all the time. We had mild days, and I even say folks in the pool at times, and the hot tubs were always occupied. They kept the pools at about 79, and the hot tubs at 100 degrees. During the first 2 days of the cruise, the ship’s photographers offer an unlimited photo package for 169. You get every photo they take! Needless to say, we went home with a lot of photos. They are normally 10.00 for the 5X7’s and 20.00 for the 8X10 portraits. We got our moneys worth, that’s for sure. This is an incredible bargain, if you like pictures. We had family portraits done several times. SHOPPING ON BOARD The ships shopping concession for jewelry is operated by Columbian Emeralds, which is a chain seen widely in the Caribbean. The clothing and liquor venue is run by a British firm. They were open most all the time, and ran the usual specials. Prices were comparable to those ashore. SPA SERVICES We booked our Spa treatments right after arriving on board. I wanted to get a massage on the first day at sea, to start the cruise off right. I booked the “Perfect Day” package at 160. which consisted of 2 body wraps, a mini facial, and a back, head and shoulders massage as well as a foot and ankle massage. This was a great treatment, and well worth it. I was happy that the therapist didn’t really push their potions on you after it was all done as is done on other ships. Keep in mind, gratuities of 15% are automatically added. My wife booked a Japanese facial, foot and ankle massage, and complete manicure and pedicure for about 170 as well. Having to make the choice over again, I would have booked the four hand massage, done by two therapists at the same time. I understand they literally have to carry you back to your room when that is done. That runs about 180. Watch for latitudes discounts as well as other specials throughout the week. Book early, space goes fast PORTS OF CALL – SHORE EXCURSIONS JUNEAU I will say that I booked all our excursions ahead of time, and not through NCL. Most of the advice came from those on Cruise Critic and other boards. Juneau was very nice, and the largest of the ports visited. We pre-booked Orca Enterprises with Captain Larry for a whale watching tour. We met at the office, and were taken by van to the boat about 15 minutes away. We weren’t out for very a few minutes before seeing bald eagles, and our first whale, which ended up fluking (showing its tail) within 20 yards from the boat. I will say that this trip is well worth it, and we saw several hump back whales, sea lions, and other marine life, with plenty of photo opportunities. Check them out at www.orcaenterprises.com They are less expensive than the cruise excursion, and far superior. After returning to Juneau, we walked around a bit, bought some fudge at the Alaska Fudge Factory, then headed back for dinner. A great day in Juneau! SKAGWAY I had pre-booked a rental car in Skagway with Avis. A bit pricy for a full-size at 70.00 for the day, but far cheaper than any excursion. The alternative was the White Pass Rail Tour, but I was afraid that the kids would get bored on that for 3 hours. Besides, we were able to stop where we wanted with the car, and get all the photos we needed. All in all, I took over 500 digital pictures. We drove up through White Pass, and to Carcross where we visited a Museum of sorts that displayed several mounted Alaska wildlife which was very well done, and a bargain at 17.00 Canadian for entry for the family. They had some adorable 6 week ponies roaming free in the parking lot that the kids just loved! While driving back, I stopped in the pass for the kids to throw snowballs in a small snow drift, before heading back to Skagway (1.5 hours each way). Some of the most incredible scenery you’ve ever seen. Many photo ops! The road parallels the rail in many places, and is far cheaper, although I would have liked to take the train. Maybe next time. We stopped at the Gold Dredge for a few minutes of gold panning (15.00). I was able to get about 10 tiny gold pieces to give my son as a souvenir. He was thrilled to be able to do that! The complete tour was way too pricy, so we opted for the panning only. We stopped at a few places in Skagway for shopping before turning in the car and heading back to the ship. GLACIER BAY Spending the morning cruising Glacier Bay was surely one of the highlight of the cruise. The ship pulled right alongside the Marjorie Glacier at 25 stories tall. We seemed to get within 50 yards, and the sound of hearing the glacier calve into the sea was unbelievable. What a joy it was to experience that from our balcony. Truly a wonderful experience. KETCHIKAN I believe Ketchikan to be my favorite port on the cruise, and I was disappointed to only spend 5 hours there. NCL should allow for more time at this stop. I pre-booked a float plane trip to Misty Fjord with my son with Southeast Aviation. They were wonderful. Check them out at www.southeastaviation.com and ask for Jim Kosmos, one of the owners. They had great prices, and the personal service was second to none. Theses guys know their stuff, and they are using two DeHaviland Beavers, which are great little 5 passenger plans. We flew way up into the Fjord, landed at a remote lake, right in time to watch a 600 lb Alaskan Brown Bear eating some grass (The salmon haven’t started their run yet, so the bears are still eating grass) She was truly neat to watch, and not at all intimidated by our presence. We were able to get out, stand on the floats for a bit, and take photos. We had great weather, and great visibility. Believe me when I tell you, this is a must as far as shore excursions go! Give Jim a call, and tell him Greg, the travel agent from Florida recommended him. You won’t be disappointed. By the time we got back, we had about an hour to shop, and off we went, headed for Victoria, BC VICTORIA B.C. The weather in Victoria was in the high 70’s and perfect for shorts. We had to take a 6.00 cab ride into town from the pier. Plenty of shopping. We ended up spending 200 CAD at the GAP getting some great deals, and great exchange on the dollar using our American credit card. There was a festival going on which added a lot of life to the downtown area. I would truly like to return to Victoria some day, and spend a couple of days. We were back on the ship for our 4 hour cruise back to Seattle. This time, we were actually sad that our cruise was over. Usually we are ready to get home at the end of a 7-day cruise. DISEMBARKATION NCL has it down to a science I will say. We woke about 8am, had breakfast, and while our color was called, we walked right off the ship and got our luggage. The whole process took no longer than 10 minutes. We hailed a cab back to the Avis lot, and rented a car for one day, as our flight left early the next day. Freestyle disembarkation is the way to go! POST CRUISE I booked a room at the SEATAC Marriott which I will say is a VERY nice hotel! Very close and convenient to the airport. Parking is 12.00 a night, but there is free shuttle service to the terminal. The rooms are very well done in Pacific Northwest Décor, and there is a nice indoor pool area with a heated pool and Jacuzzis. We went for another dim sum dinner in Chinatown, and took the kids to the Family Fun Center where they were able to play until 11pm. I wanted to wear them out for the flight home, early the next day. We arrived at the airport about 2 hours early, which is recommended, as SEATAC still has some quirks in their security planning. The kids slept most of the way on the transcontinental flight back to Atlanta, and again to Florida. We brought a portable DVD player so the kids could watch their own movies on the flight. Money well spent! SUMMARY Kudos to NCL for a job well done. The ship is beautiful, and well maintained. Improvements can be made with the waiters, but that’s not a big issue. I believe that those of all ages would enjoy this cruise. There is plenty to do for all, and a great mix of people. The ships officers and crew did a wonderful job, and I rate this cruise 4.75 stars of a 5. I am looking forward to sailing with NCL again. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at trintrav@bellsouth.net Happy Cruising. Greg V.

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Jun 7, 2003

Alaska

I think having cruises leave and come back to Seattle is a brilliant idea. Air fare is a cinch and NCL has a beautiful new dock area right in the heart of things. When my twin sister and I were going to turn 50, we decided that we would spend it doing a cruise so we invited friends and family to join us and ended up with 30 people. We got a great rate through CruiseMarketplace and the ones of us who had booked balcony cabins, got offered

upgrades to mini suites which we took advantage of. If at all possible, stay at the Edgewater Hotel before your cruise. It is a gorgeous hotel right at the water's edge and those lucky enough to have water side rooms will swear the Sun is coming right into their room. The hotel will even take your luggage to be checked which is a nice service. Check in is a breeze - being a former NCL cruiser gave us the chance to use the Latitutude line. The only hitch was that even though we got to bypass the doorway that most passengers used, we all still ended up at the same x-ray machines. No big deal though. Once we were escorted to our cabin, we had fun exploring it. It was a beauty. The closet/dressing area was huge and there were lots of drawers and cabinets to store things. There were plenty of hangers. The main part of the bath had a full sized tub/shower with a wonderful European shower head. There was a big sitting area and good sized balcony which we used to its full extent. We went to explore the ship. I think the Star has a more impressive atrium and some of the smaller lounges on the Sun are in an odd location, but overall, the ship is impressive. The Observation Lounge is a bit tricky to find but once we found it, it became one of our favorite places to hang out inside. I heard people complaining about how some of the elevators didn't go all the way to the top but since the pool was situated on the top deck, those elevators could hardly go any farther. Also, I asked one man where his sense of adventure was if he didn't want to explore where the elevators led, etc. I like to find out the quirks of ships. Do not eat in the buffet when you get on board. The 7 Seas restaurant was open for lunch and it was also open daily for breakfast. It is a nice pace to sit and relax instead of jockeying for buffet food which is my opinion was not that good looking. Las Ramblas , the tapas bar, made sandwiches daily to order for lunch. In the late afternoon, the tapas came out and if there are ones you like, get them that day cause they don't show up again. We ate there one night after having a big lunch. It was never crowded. We ate twice at the Teppanyaki Room - booked the whole 12 seats for some in our group. We really like Le Bistro and had the best waiter/waitress - Nellon from Trinidad and Ramona from Romania. They worked in the 7 Seas at lunch so we tried to get at their station because they were so much fun. We had great wait staff every day and if there was going to be a delay with the food, we were always warned. I only saw the Que Noche show and enjoyed it. Others in our group saw the comedian the first night and said it was a must see - we were just too tired to stay up. Some of the other entertainment took place in the smaller lounges and filled up quickly. There was always something fun going on be it a trivia game or a craft, a talk about Alaska, a talk about shopping, etc. so there was no way to be bored on this ship. Most of the men in our group had fun playing in the casino tournaments. The passage to Juneau is beautiful. We were blessed with gorgeous weather and enjoyed being out on deck watching the world float by. The biggest problem was that we were late getting into Juneau and there was no good command of the hordes all trying to get off the ship at the same time. NCL needs to post employees to direct those with early shore excursions off first. We had pre booked a whale watching trip with Orca Enterprises - l-888-733-6722 - talk to Carol or Capt Larry - they met us and got us loaded on a van and off we went to the boat. The whales weren't there in huge numbers but we were lucky enough to see several. Also saw some seals, otters and even a brown bear. There were plenty of eagles to make us happy. Skagway was everything I hoped for scenery wise. Again, we booked early using M&M Brokers - talk to Mark at 1-866-983-3900 - we were booked on Frontier Excursions and 13 of our group were put into two brand new Ford Excursions and off we went on a 3-1/2 hour tour of the Yukon Territory. If you do this trip, you have to take your passport. The scenery was breathtaking and the narration of the hardships the gold prospectors faced just to get to the gold was interesting. Some in our group booked the train trip but that didn't go nearly as far as we did and we paid a lot less plus we got to get out and take pictures. M&M Tours is a broker and they will book anything you are interested in. One person in our group walked off the ship and talked to them and booked a dog sled trip which she thoroughly loved. There is some fun shopping once the shore excursion is over. Glacier Bay was gorgeous. We were lucky that day because we had overcast skies which made the blue in the glaciers stand out. Ketchikan was our only rainy/cool day. We didn't have anything planned there so we just explored Creek Street. We took the funicular up ($2) for a great view of the ship from up above. Some in our group did the lumberjack show and they enjoyed it. We experienced some rough seas and strong head winds going to Victoria so we were late getting in. We had not planned anything cause we had been there before. Some in our group got off and rented a Rolls Royce limo and had a fun tour of the town in style. Too quickly, our trip was over. Disembarkation went off without a snag - love how NCL does this. We had prearranged a van back to the airport and once we had everybody together, I called and the van pulled in. We used Emerald City at 1-888-622-3400 and it was $65 for an hour and split between the 7 of us was a great deal. Especially because the cruise line charged $20 each for independent travelers. Emerald City dropped us right at the curb and for those of you who are familar with Seattle's airport, it is a big deal to be dropped curbside. We did encounter huge lines waiting to go through security - took us 45 minutes - so plan to get to the airport early if at all possible. Overall, our group had a great time. We had a group coordinator once we were on board and she helped us set up a few things - thanks Carolyn. I would not hesitate to do this cruise again. Great crew and fun cruise directors.

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May 31, 2003

Alaska

We had a balcony room which was adequate, but the chairs on the balcony were rather uncomfortable for a tall man. I think that the photographers were a bit of nuisance. The food was rather good, although depending on the restaurant you went it could be a rather cold. I did notice that the ship had a peculiar odor in the eating areas. Overall, a nice trip, with room for improvement.

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Apr 5, 2003

Western Caribbean

Booking: Went through Yahoo Travel. Great deal and received a cabin upgrade. Traveling with sister-in-law and brother-in-law. We were able to get 2 rooms next to each other. There was a crib waiting in our cabin when we arrived. Flights: Delta arranged through NCL. Great price and great flight times. I checked other sites and couldn’t have gotten a better deal on my own. The only issue was they lost a piece of my husband’s luggage.

But they managed to find it and have it on the boat before we sailed away. NCL reps were everywhere. We had no trouble finding one and getting on a bus to the pier. Very smooth. However, next time I will come in a day early, just so the stress level is lowered a bit. We were exhausted by the time the ship left port. Worrying about luggage, etc. Embarkation: Little worried when our bus arrived at the pier. The line was outside the door! But it was really just a short line; they were checking our Ids before we went into the terminal. Lines at check in were not very long. There was a NCL employee helping passengers get in the right lines. She saw that we had a toddler that was getting a little impatient and put us through the Latitudes check in. Thanks NCL! We got on the ship and we were a little overwhelmed. It did not have the feel of a ship at all!! It was amazing. The décor was tasteful, not garish. We did not have anyone to lead us to our cabin because my sister-in-law was waiting there for us. There were a lot of NCL reps around though, I am sure we could have been taken to our cabin without a problem. They were also very diligent at attacking the Norwalk virus. Moist towelettes everywhere! Dining, tendering, etc. Casino was nice, not too smoky. We liked the observation lounge. Our little one liked to listen to the duo that sang there at nights. Kids splash pool was great! Not too crowded. Our only complaint was that the adult pool was salt water and it was always cold. Lots of beach chairs. We usually camped out on Deck 12 near the kid’s pool, less crowded and not overly annoying. Casino was a nice way to spend some time. A roll of quarters went a long way. The ship’s store was a great place to pick up souvenirs. Loved just walking around with the room key to charge all purchase too. Also, we did not find the staff pushy at all! Dining: Dining with a toddler is a challenge in and of itself. We chose NCL because of Freestyle Cruising. My husband would never wear a suit on vacation and we need to be flexible time-wise. The buffet in the Garden Café was our choice for breakfast and lunch daily. Food was good and the lines were quick. Lots of variety. The outdoor buffet on sea days was good, too. Dinners were amazing! We only ate at the Seven Seas once, mainly because we ate early and the four Seasons was more convenient. We also found one waitress that we loved and asked for her table most of the time. Dinner took about 2 hours. Simply, because there were so many courses! Service was great. My favorite dinners were the President’s dinner and the Farewell dinner. Italian night was my least favorite. Desserts were incredible. We eat out a lot and we thought the food was better than at most restaurants. And I didn’t have to cook it, which made it even better. If you are traveling with a toddler, eat when they open and get a window seat. That is the only way we made it through dinner-she would sit in the window and watch the water. If we were lucky, she would see another boat! We didn’t take advantage of any of the specialty restaurants. Not worth it with a toddler in tow. By the way, we did bring sodas, water and snacks on board without any problems. Room Service: We did this several times for breakfast. Especially handy on early port days. Your basic continental variety. So easy to do, we would just hang our request on the door before we went to bed and then it would arrive right on time in the morning. We also did some PB & J’s for my daughter to take on shore with us. Cabin: We were in 7213-ocean view. Small, of course, but lots of storage. You really do have to unpack everything to be comfortable. Next time, I think we will try a balcony. We did not see much of our room steward, but that was not a bad thing. Our rooms were always clean and the trash was always emptied. That is important when you have dirty diapers. I had brought along a hair dryer but there was no need, the one in the bathroom worked great. We brought along small are travel sizes of everything: soap, shampoos, conditioner, lotion, deodorant, toothpaste. The small size allowed for better accessibility and storage. Sea: We did have some rough water and yes you could feel it!! We had to take Dramamine a few times. We started out with the patches but they made us thirsty all the time. It was so beautiful though, even when it was rough! Our toddler did the best. Never affected her at all. For 2 days after we arrived at home, we were still having motion issues. I think I will get the sea bands next time. Entertainment: Sorry, we had a toddler, didn’t check out any of the shows. We did hear Twice as Nice in the Observation Lounge. They were good. Shore excursions: Went through the ship for Grand Cayman: Stingray City/Island tour. We enjoyed it. Great excursion for toddler. We went to Stingray City, the water was incredible. Hell-that was interesting. Got a few postcards. Turtle Farm-that was neat. The Tortuga Rum Cake Factory is right next store. I would like to spend more time in Grand Cayman. Belize. I was surprised at how long the tender was here, 30 minutes maybe. We went though the ship again for the Zoo/City tour. Again, a great tour for a toddler. Be advised: a stroller will not work at the zoo. The paths are loose gravel. A backpack would be ideal. The animals were amazing. Our tour guide was local and filled us up with great information about the city. Roatan, we did Salt & Pepper. Beautiful place, great lunch. I heard snorkeling was good. Get a beach chair first and then do lunch. There is a dive shop there too but know the times the boat leaves. We missed it. Cozumel. We booked Playa Sol through the ship, found a taxi, $15 each way. When we arrived it was so windy that all water activities were cancelled. There was also an issue with tiny jellyfish. The place was perfect for all our needs, diving, snorkeling, drinks, sand, chairs but we had to leave. So, we took a taxi back. No problems getting a credit back from NCL. They did not even question it. What to do now? We did a lot of window-shopping, ate at a great restaurant: The Shrimp Bucket and then came back to hang out on the ship. My husband wanted to rent a scooter but no room for the baby. We almost rented a car but decided we didn’t really want to drive there. Next time we will have a plan b. We want to go back to Cozumel. The water was so blue. Disembarkation: Very smooth. We had no issues with our bill. We got a printout the day before just to make sure. It was only about $440. This was for our excursions, daily gratuity and a few drinks and purchases in the gift shop. No surprises! The automatic gratuity was wonderful!! We got our colored tags, packed all our luggage except for one and then had a great nights sleep. Woke up in Miami, had breakfast and waited for our color to be called, it was called and off we went to find our luggage and then load into a bus. I can see where this would be time consuming but we got lucky and got right on. Then we waited at Miami Airport for our flight. Overall this was a fantastic experience. It was our first cruise and I think we are addicted. We are looking at Alaska for next year. I think we will wait until our little one can join the Kids’ Crew. That would really help with dinner. I will not try any other cruise line because we love the Freestyle. We have never cruised before because of the fixed dinners, formal wear, etc. The crew was excellent with our toddler, filled sippy cups, entertained, etc. I could not have asked for anything better. Hats off to NCL! If you have any questions on cruising with a toddler, let me know. We were very well prepared and we still learned a lot for next time!

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Apr 5, 2003

Western Caribbean

I will start out by saying that neither my wife nor I have ever cruised before this trip. I never wanted to cruise because on a vacation, I am not a fan of being told I have to dress up for dinner, eat at a certain time, and eat with the same people every night. A cruise consultant told me that these would not be issues if I tried Freestyle cruising on the Norwegian Sun. She was right! It was wonderful! We ate fairly early so we never,

ever had to wait for a table. Some nights when we were leaving the dining room we would see a moderate crowd waiting for a table, but no more so than you would find at a restaurant in town on a Friday night. And I never wore a tie or a sports coat - Dockers and a polo shirt, like almost everyone else in any of the dining rooms. Posted outside the dining rooms is a sign that says "no shorts or T-shirts after 5:30pm. Both men and women dressed Resort Casual. If you wanted to dine with strangers I noticed that you could make that request when you came to dinner, and they would seat you with others who had made that request. The main dining rooms were very elegant, and the service was terrific. I did not feel that wait staff were rude or ignoring me because I wasn't tipping. We found the same to be true on the nights we ate at the specialty restaurants - Le Bistro and Il Adagio - twice. These meals were well worth the small cover charge. Thursday night was Lobster night in the main dining room (Cozumel day) but the ship's newspaper the night before did not spell this out. I knew it from reading these reviews. The only thing I was mildly disappointed in was that the Chocoholic Buffet was late one afternoon on a shore excursion day. It was over before we got back to the ship. I would have liked to try it. EMBARKATION: This process went very smoothly considering the number of people they had to get on board, and get settled. We were given good directions to our room by the ample staff designated to help passengers aboard. ROOM: The room (with a balcony) was more than I had imagined. We had a king size bed and a sofa. The bathroom was comfortable. A friend cruised on another line and told me his shower was combined with his toilet! Our shower was separate and adequate in size. My wife brought a hair dryer because I read so many complaints on these reviews. Our hairdryer worked fine! The tip about bringing a bar of soap was a good one, though. Another tip is that a television channel is devoted to ship information such as where you are at, how far you have traveled, and various weather conditions. We had this channel and CNN on when we wanted to know what was going on. The ship's layout was confusing, but trying to figure out where things were added to the fun of the cruise. The décor was very nice, and unlike other review writers, we thought the atrium was very nice. By the last day of the cruise we knew where everything was located. I should mention something about the days at sea here. Lying out by the pool and participating in the poolside barbeque was great because it was hot and sunny. Drink attendants were plentiful, but not at all pushy. Drinks were expensive, so we limited our alcoholic drinks to shore excursion days (I would not want to get some of those bills on Friday!). We got chairs on the upper deck above the pools around 10:00am as all pool deck chairs were spoken for by that time. By 11:00am on these sunny days, all chairs were gone. Kids were not in abundance on this cruise, even though it was Spring break. I'm not sure how many activities this line has for kids, and I did not see a lot of hamburgers or hot dogs, as kids may generally prefer that type of food. Also no rock climbing walls or skating rinks. There were some retirees on the ship but the majority of cruisers appeared to be working middle class baby boomers, having a good time. SHORE EXCURSIONS: The ports of call on this cruise are another reason we picked this line, and we were not disappointed. Grand Cayman was our first experience at tendering. We got in the ticket line at 7:45am as they were going to pass out tickets starting round 8:30 and we had to be at Captain Marvin's by 9:15. Around 50 people get on each tender boat. The tendering had me nervous, but we got on the first boat and got to Captain Marvin's on time. I noticed, as we were leaving the ship, that the tendering seemed to be going very smoothly and I shouldn't have spent so much time worrying about it. If you don't have to be somewhere early, I suggest letting the ship clear out in the first half hour, and then leisurely go ashore. Captain Marvin's was a good choice. We had a nice day, with about 26 people on our boat. We made and extra stop that the ship's tour didn't make. It was a nice coral reef area near the stingrays. We fed the stingrays (I don't know if the ship's tour did), and a camera crew on board videotaped us. The tape turned out to be well done so we ordered our adventure for $65. It came two weeks after we got back, just like they promised, and it is a great reminder of the fun we had that day. When we returned to the town we only had one hour before getting back to the ship. We stopped for Turtle Fritters - big mistake. They cost $7 and had no meat taste. They were much like a crab cake without much flavor - should have saved the money. Roatan Island was our next stop, and our favorite. As we pulled into shore the whole town came out to greet us. It was a festive atmosphere. I had the impression that the ship docking here is one of the few things these people have to look forward to - and it is probably when they make most of their money. We took the excursion to Tabayana Beach. You board school buses for a 45-minute ride through the town and countryside. It was very interesting to see how these Central Americans live. Anyone with something to protect guards their property with glass shards imbedded in their walls, which may also be topped with razor wire. I should mention that we took ship excursions here and in Belize and therefore we always felt safe. I heard a guy behind me complaining about paying $48 to go to a beach. What this idiot forgets is that he didn't have to worry about getting lost, or breaking down in the middle of a strange country, and possibly missing the ship - something you would not want to do! The ship's guides were very well trained, and took their jobs very seriously. I'm quite sure these guides are the most fortunate people in these countries, and they would hate to lose their jobs. Another reason I felt safe here and in Belize, is because I'm sure the ship's presence is a big boost to their economy. I would bet that criminal activity against tourists is dealt with very harshly by the local police force. You don't want to kill the goose laying the golden eggs. Tabayana beach was clean, with plenty of chairs and shade. We noticed no sand fleas (a complaint of other reviewers). The coral reef was a very interesting snorkel. They even had a free-guided snorkel tour, which I stumbled upon. This was a good tour and I highly recommend it as you find out what the things are below you, and how they got there. As an aside, we took our own snorkel equipment for this day and Grand Cayman. We were very glad we did, as the equipment at both places seemed well used, and not abundant. They were using a two-hour shift method at Tabayana. The lunch here was OK. The rum punches were very good, and only cost $3.50 - which seemed like a bargain versus the ship's bar. Belize was another tender. It was about a 35-minute boat ride to a mall like area that was fenced off from the main area of the town. We took the Lamanai River/Mayan Ruins tour offered by the ship. This was a greyhound bus ride of about 45 minutes to a riverboat ride 21 miles into the jungle to a Mayan site. The bus ride was a guided narrative, providing us with interesting facts about the country we were traveling through. The same guide then drove the boat upriver, stopping frequently to point out an abundance of local wildlife. Many strange looking birds, and a lounging iguana. At the ruins our same guide toured us around, explaining the Mayan history, and pointing out the howler monkeys all forty of us missed! As I said, these locals hired by the cruise line take their jobs seriously, and are very professional. We then had an authentic lunch, prepared by decedents of the Mayans. We ate chicken, beans and rice, and chips and salsa. We also had Pepsi out of a glass bottle (if you are under 45 you probably don't get that). After we returned to the bus we could buy the local beer, Belikins, for $2 a bottle. The bus ride back covered the same road. At one point we came upon a military checkpoint. They were stopping everybody and looking for something, but waved the tour bus through. The guide did not mention this activity, but once again, I was glad I had not rented a passenger car or scooter and gone off on my own! This trip immersed you in the culture and environment of Belize for the day. It was a wonderful way to feel like you "did" Belize. Cozumel was our big shopping day. It was cool (70's) so I didn't mind not snorkeling here. My wife found some good deals on jewelry at Goodmark's. Sean, from the ship, talked about taking a cab for $4 to the far end of town (eight blocks) when you get off the boat, and walking your way back to the ship. This was an excellent tip as there are a lot of ships at this port (less crowded by starting at the other end), and when you are done shopping you find yourself standing at Carlos & Charlie's. The "Yard" margarita here is a must do! It is then (thankfully) a short walk down the pier back to the ship. We ate at a great Mexican restaurant in the middle of the shopping district across from a monument (can you tell I can't remember the name?). This is a big compliment from me, as I don't care for Mexican food here at home. WRAPUP: I wasn't too excited about going on this cruise and it ended up being one of the best vacations I have ever been on. The ship was very comfortable, the staff bent over backwards to make your stay pleasant, the ports of call were varied, and the shore excursions were interesting, safe, and well managed. Would we ever cruise again - definitely. Would we ever cruise on Norwegian again - it is the only line I would cruise on!

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Mar 25, 2003

Western Caribbean

Elizabeth & Bryan Let me start off by saying going to PAYA BAY was one of the best parts of our cruise. Once we arrived in Roatan, we were cheerfully greeted by their driver, Adella. She was very informative, and told us all about the island. The tour up island was a beautiful scenic tour of the east end. It's unspoiled beauty is breathtaking. Now arriving at Paya Bay we were greeted by the Owner's Mervin and Lurlene McNab. Lurlene is

simply a dream. I've never met anyone so accommodating. After snorkeling we were served a delicious seafood lunch of conch, lobster, and fish "Island Style". The coconut lobster and conch was soooooooo delicious. The snorkeling was great! The entire atmosphere was fantastic, the other quest were very impressed also. The only bad part was LEAVING Paya Bay. But we have already planned a vacation there in the fall. I recommend Paya Bay to anyone!!! You'll never see another place on the island like it.

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Mar 22, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was our second cruise. Both were on NCL. We chose this cruise because we had 4 scuba divers who wanted to see Roatan and Belize. They have all dove in Cozumel before and still think it is one of the best. The rest of us like to snorkel. There were 5 couples in our group. They all booked inside rooms and we chose a balcony room as we were flying on frequent flyer miles. We booked our cruise through All Aboard Cruises with the group

booking special “the 8th person cruises for free”. We all split the savings. After we sent in our last payment, everyone was upgraded from and interior room to a balcony room. We were upgraded to a mini-suite. Most of us were on the first NCL cruise together so we were all Latitude Members. I think this is possibly why we were upgraded. However, this was about one month before the war started. This was a very pleasant surprise. I didn’t think I would like two days at sea, the first and last. However, I remember saying we needed a vacation from the last cruise because you were going non-stop. I recommend the two days at sea because you can really relax and get into vacation mode on the first day, and relax and recover before going back to real life. Our mini-suite was set up like the balcony rooms, but a little bigger and better. The big difference was the bathroom. It was HUGE. It had a walk-in closet with built in drawers, a sink, separate make-up mirror and vanity, glass door to the toilet and large tub/shower. (I think it is bigger than my master bath at home) We were on the pool level near the stairs and elevators, which was very convenient. The others were just one floor below us. I read some reviews of this ship before we left. I agree that it wasn’t laid out the best. Even though we got to know the ship, we still had trouble getting from one place to another. The food was very good in La Bistro (the French restaurant). But I just didn’t like the idea of the extra $10 “cover charge”. The food in the main dining rooms was good. The service was good. We didn’t have too much trouble getting a large table for all of us either. The breakfast and lunch buffet was average. There was a pool deck barbeque that was much better. They also had tacos in the late afternoon. We never went into the main restaurant for breakfast or lunch. I was disappointed in the room service menu. Not much on it. One complaint I do have is that the pool games are announced on speakers on the lower pool deck. It was so loud; you couldn’t carry on a conversation with the person next to you. You had to yell over the noise. GRAND CAYMAN: After reading the cruise reviews and learning from the last cruise, we decided to book our excursions on the Internet. They are usually much cheaper. The divers took the ship dive, due to the short period of time we were in Grand Cayman. We booked a two-hour trip to Stingray City and snorkel through Captain Marvin’s at www.captainmarvins.com. for $34. That trip was really great. I would recommend them and use them again. They are located two blocks west of the pier. Our guide was great. The only bad thing was we were supposed to get back with about an hour left for shopping. However, we didn’t get back until ten minutes before the last tender. We were told buy your perfumes and watches in Grand Cayman. And don’t forget the infamous rum cakes. ROATAN: As we read on a review, this is a very poor area. Instead of giving the children quarters, we brought animal crackers and crayons for them. They went crazy for them. At one point, an officer had to have the kids back away from us because they were getting a little carried away. We booked an excursion through Captain Dusty’s Charters. I read about it on a cruise review and found it at http://roatansailing.com/cruiseship-roatan.htm or direct email captdustycharters@yahoo.com. He takes a group of 8 for sailing and snorkeling. We had six people so we got a discount rate of $63 each for the day. It is his personal sailboat. He picked up sandwiches for us to eat and he had pop & beer on board. He picked us up right at the pier and we drove to West End. We had a blast. The snorkeling was great. We snorkeled right by the divers just a little way out from shore. He had a dive master on board also, however I really don’t remember seeing her in the water. We were kind of on our own. Capt Dusty owns the boat and is a one-man business. I would recommend this to anyone and I would do it again. There are sand fleas or sand mites that bite you on the beach. They were selling Repel bug spray on the ship as you got off. I’m glad we were on the boat all day. No one was bitten. BELIZE: We didn’t have any excursions booked before we left but saw See Sports Belize on the Internet. This was the same dive shop the divers were using. We went in hoping to get on a trip to see the manatees and dolphins. They were already full for the day, but they called someone they knew that could take us out. They were very accommodating. We went out with a local on what looked like a homemade wooded boat. It had a new 200 hp motor though! Our guide was named Able. He was really fun. We saw manatees and dolphins. Then he took us to a large sand bar and we swam there for a while. We were gone about 4 hours and paid about $30 each. He had pop and beer on board for us. We picked up snacks in town. I would recommend Sports Belize and Able as an alternative in a heartbeat. He just went anywhere we wanted. The cave tubing is a popular excursion here. COZUMEL: Since we stayed on the island for a week about 3 years ago, we knew exactly what we were going to do. We decided to shop in the morning, then we went back to the ship, had lunch and changed. We took a cab ($10 for all 4 of us) to Chankanab Beach. We paid $10 each to get into the park. It has everything you need there. Food, drinks, waiters on the beach, showers, etc. You can snorkel there too. When the divers came back, they rented motor scooters for us to drive around on. They were about $23 for a half day. If you stay in Cozumel to eat, we recommend Primas Italian restaurant. They have the best seafood fettuccini. Cozumel is by far the best shopping. It has really grown in just a few years! I liked the freestyle dining for the fact you could go whenever you wanted and to which restaurant you wanted. You didn’t get the personalized service like the same waiter night after night, but overall I think it’s a good thing. I thought the service in all areas was good even though I read complaints that the new tipping system created less personalized service.

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Mar 22, 2003

Western Caribbean

I have been on Carnival before and to tell you the truth I was expecting more from Norwegian, when really I liked Carnival a lot better. I thought the people on Norwegian weren't as friendly! But then again, on Carnival, I had the best cruise director and on Norwegian, no offense, but the cruise director was dull and boring! In addition, I did not think it would really matter, but it actually does. The food was about the same on both

ships. It was ok. The entertainment on Norwegian was ok,  it was excellent! Carnival had good entertainment but more laid back and audience got involved unlike Norwegian. The first place we stopped was Grand Cayman it was fun. However, there really was not that much to see I would do an excursion if I ever went there again. The next day we went to Roatan, Honduras well that was interesting. There very poor and its not that clean. Don’t eat any of their food. The little kids come up to you and bag you for money. I later went to a beach and it was nice just do not shop! Then the third day I went to Belize, which was very beautiful I saw some Mayan ruins, which was a lot of fun but a long ride (2 hours there and 2 hours back) so it took almost my whole day. Then last but not least I went to Cozumel, which I happen to love! It was great shopping great beaches nice restaurants very nice! Overall would I go back on a Norwegien cruise? no would i go back on Carnival? Yes!

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Mar 15, 2003

Western Caribbean

First before I say anything about the cruise is that I am embarrassed of the behavior of many fellow passengers. I have never heard such snotty, bitchy people before. If there was anything to complain about it was many of my fellow passengers. My wife and myself had a wonderful time and enjoyed laughing at all the people worried about anything and everything. If any of the readers were on this same cruise and you were one of the complainers

well I'm sure you complain about everything else. As for us we had a wonderful time. Perhaps I am on a rampage so forgive me. Here is a list of things you should know If you go on a cruise. 1. realize that 2000 people are going to be there as well and at times you may have to wait for a number of reasons, just be patient and enjoy yourself. 2. Understand that when you get on the ship you are not the only ones aboard. 3. if your rude to the staff they will be rude to you in return, that's only fair. 4. be prepared to spend money once aboard, if you don't want to spend money that's fine but don't complain about the prices, the ship is a business on the water. Where else can you get a steak and lobster tails for 12 dollars. 5. the tendering process may take a while, 2000 people trying to get to the same spot at the same time will require some sort of wait. 6. have fun, it might not come easy for some people, if your having difficulty with this, watch a child at the pool and see how it is done. 7. remember the staff on board are doing a job. Think about you and your job and how much you like or dislike it, well the same applies to the workers, use some empathetic skills if you have some. 8. If you find yourself getting frustrated don't blame anyone not even yourself. Realize your on a ship in the middle of paradise and that waiting or spending money in paradise is better than doing the same in the middle of the ordinary day. 9. Say thank you and your welcome to the people that help you. 10. Do the same for people that don't. The reason they might not be helpful is because the person before you was rude or cruel over the price of a beer. I will write a better review stating specific aspects of our trip later, I thought this was more important. For the people who can enjoy themselves and are nice to others good for you. The others can just stay at home and complain about their own lives to their hearts content.

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Mar 15, 2003

Western Caribbean

Before I start, let me just say "I love to cruise!" We met new friends, enjoyed the sun, the beautiful Caribbean water, ate, drank, partied, didn't have to work for a week - what's not to enjoy! I've read other reviews of this cruise recently and it never ceases to amaze me how greatly opinions vary. While reading this review, I hope you understand I am not writing it to sound negative but of all our cruises, this was the worst. O.K.,

here we go! My wife and I, children, spouses, friends and in-laws (a group of nine all together) recently returned from a Western Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Sun. This was our fourth cruise and the second with Norwegian Cruise Lines. I'd read many reviews about this ship and it's itinerary prior to sailing and found a lot of useful information. I hope sharing our experiences will help others considering this cruise. We were scheduled to depart Minneapolis/St. Paul to Miami at 7:00 A.M. however did not depart until a little after 8:00. Even with the late departure, we arrived in Miami at a little after noon. It has been two years since our last cruise out of Miami and I forgot what a huge airport Miami has. It took us almost a half-hour (and a lot of walking) to find our baggage claim area and we still had to wait another fifteen minutes to get our luggage. We took a transport from the airport to the dock during which time the representative provided us with all kinds of misinformation. We were told, teens under the age of sixteen could purchase soda passes for sixteen dollars (unlimited soda) wrong! How's twenty-eight dollars sound! We were told our luggage would arrive to our rooms within several hours, wrong again! It arrived six hours after we boarded. Basically everything this person told us was incorrect. We arrived at the NCL check-in at almost two o'clock and the line was long to say the least. I looked for the "Latitudes" line as we were members and found the line to be almost non-existent. Within minutes we were registered, had our sail & sign room keys and were on board. Just a hint: There were nine of us in our party & only my wife and I were "Latitudes" members. I asked an NCL representative if all nine of us could register together and I was told "no problem." We were on board and in our rooms by 2:30. Really good! One more note: If you intend to bring your own booze on board you had best disguise it. NCL does scan both your carry on and checked luggage for alcohol. If they find it, they will confiscate it and return it to you on the last day of your cruise. We decided to bring a 1.5 liter bottle of vodka with us which I transferred into Club Soda bottles prior to leaving home. I securely fastened the tops, placed them in zip lock bags, wrapped them in a towel and placed them in my checked luggage. They came through just fine - a little orange juice from the Garden Café and we had screwdrivers all week. SHIP My first impression of the Sun was - wow! She is a beautiful ship, lots of wood and brass. We were on deck 8, room 8248 with a balcony. This was our second cruise with a balcony and I would never cruise again without one. We enjoy the freedom of being able to get away from the crowd to have some quiet time. I love being able to leave the patio door open at night, hear the waves breaking over the hull of the ship and enjoy the fresh Caribbean air. To be able to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning or a nightcap in the evening while looking up at the moon/stars from the privacy of your own patio is the absolute goods! The room itself I thought was a little small and the bathroom was unbelievably tiny. We are not large people and it's a good thing! I can imagine a larger person would have an awfully hard time in that dinky little shower. Remember to bring your own bar of soap unless you like using liquid soap - it's all NCL provides. You may also want to bring your own hair dryer! The one provided is like using a battery operated dryer with low batteries! Overall I would say the ship, though beautiful had the worst design/layout of any ship I've ever cruised. My reason for saying this is; you can't get from point A to point B without going up a floor, down a floor, through three or four bars, restaurants, shops, etc. The ship is relatively new, approximately one year old and it has been well maintained. FOOD I don't consider myself a picky eater, but I have to say the food on the Sun was the worst I've had on any cruise. Our first night at sea, we decided to eat at one of the main dinning rooms (Seven Seas) we were tired and just wanted to relax/unwind. The dinner menu was most forgettable however the experience wasn't. Due to the fact there were nine in our party we had to wait & wait to be seated, wait & wait to order, wait & wait for our order to arrive. Not good! My daughter & friend decided to order a glass of wine while waiting. The waiter asked for her sail & sign card for billing purposes. He returned shortly with the wine, minus her card. Note: Your sail & sign card is your lifeblood on any cruise. Without it, you can't get into your room you can't purchase anything - basically your screwed! When she asked for her card back, the waiter couldn't find it. He'd lost it! Not wanting to take the chance of someone finding & using her card to purchase "God knows what" I asked to see the maitre d. He apologized and promptly brought my daughter a new card. Not to be outdone, my daughter's friend experienced the identical incident two nights latter. Throughout the remainder of the week it was always in the back of their minds; was someone running up their bill? Fortunately, the answer was no! Before I go any further I have to say Freestyle Dinning sucks! You always wait to be seated no matter where/when you eat. The quality of service decreases noticeably. You never get to know your waiter. Our first morning at sea we decided to try the Garden Buffet. I couldn't help of think of the line Cousin Eddie used in the movie Vegas Vacation. "I'll have some of that there yella, and don't go cheap on me now!" The eggs were scrambled, watery and tasted like cheese curds! The sausage (aside from being cold) tasted like some kind of mystery meat. On the bright side, the melon and fruit was eatable. This was the first and last time I ate breakfast in the Garden café. Without beating our less than fine dinning experiences to death, let me just say; the only good meal we had the entire cruise was on Thursday evening (lobster & filet mignon) and it was just O.K. PORTS OF CALL Monday - Grand Cayman This was the second cruise we booked with Grand Cayman as a port of call; we have yet to see Grand Cayman! Sunday evening was the Captain's dinner at which time I took the opportunity to ask the Captain if he thought sea conditions would be favorable for us to come to port the next morning. He was very noncommittal and evasive with regard to how he responded to my question, and I knew. Sea conditions had been rough all day Sunday with 15 -18 foot waves. I awoke early Monday morning, went onto our balcony and found, if anything conditions had worsened during the evening. Sure enough, at approximately 7:00 A.M. we received an announcement from the Captain supporting my theory. So much (again) for Grand Cayman. This really gripes me. From what I've read, and from the people I've spoken with, it's my understanding this happens more often than not. Why list a port of call on your itinerary when you know there is a better than 50% chance you won't be able to port there? I don't get it! The last time this happened to us was on the Carnival, Victory two years ago. Obviously, the cruise line is not responsible for the weather. However, Carnival gave each passenger a $50.00 credit on their sail & sign cards, which I thought was a nice gesture. On the Sun, they gave passengers free rum/punch cocktails from 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. This too was a nice gesture, but I couldn't help but think, what about all the passengers who don't drink alcohol? The passengers who did indulge literally binged, I saw people slamming two & three at a time. It would have probably cost NCL less had they simply applied a credit instead of what it cost them in rum. I've now resigned myself to the fact; I'll never see Grand Cayman. Tuesday - Roatan Honduras This port turned out to be the highlight of our cruise. Roatan is absolutely beautiful, in fact one of the most beautiful Caribbean islands I've seen. I'd read many reviews of this port prior to our cruise and we decided we wanted to go to "Fosters resort" which is located on Tabayana Beach. Upon arriving in Roatan, we met a gal named Margot Meja who does tour's and beach trips. Note: We met her purely by accident while attempting to line up a cab. She was absolutely terrific. For $30.00 pp. she took us to Tabayana Beach narrated our drive there/back and provided a wealth of information about the island. Beyond this, she had her nephew with her whom she instructed to stay with us to watch our "stuff" while we were swimming, etc. Margot informed us; "if we went to Fosters Resort we would be charged $10.00 per person to use their facilities." She suggested we go to the Bahamian Beach Club, which shares the same beach and is located immediately next to Fosters. In fact, you can see Fosters and walk to it about a block down if you want to - we didn't. This beach club has everything you could possibly want, food, drinks, snorkel equipment rental, etc - it's beautiful. Margot dropped us off at approximately 10:00 A.M. and asked what time we would like for her to return and get us? We told her we thought about 3:30 and at exactly 3:30, she was there! I would highly recommend Margot, if you are planning a day at the beach in Roatan. You can e-mail her at MargotMejiatatum@yahoo.com. You won't be sorry! Wednesday - Belize Belize is another port we were really looking forward to but this too turned into a fiasco. We awoke Wednesday morning to find sea conditions again, very rough. Surprisingly we did not receive an announcement from the Captain telling us, this port was also closed - at least not right away! We arrived in port at approximately 8:00 A.M. and tender announcements commenced almost immediately. After approximately one hour and a hundred passengers, the Captain made the announcement; sea conditions weren't conducive to continue the tendering process. Surprise! No additional tenders left the ship until sea conditions calmed (slightly) at approximately 10:30 - 11:00 A.M. We were only scheduled to stay in Belize until 3:30, so those who had planned a full day were screwed. We waited until approximately noon and decided to go to shore. The tender we took was jammed and the sea conditions were not a whole lot better than they had been earlier. I couldn't believe how far we had to tender. I'm guessing a minimum of two miles however; distance at sea is hard to judge. Many of the tender passengers were bounced around like bobbers and my wife became ill during the trip. Beyond the sea being so rough, it was quite warm/humid the combination of both was simply too much for many of the passengers. By the time we arrived at shore, all we wanted was to do was return to the ship. We found an air-conditioned building; I bought my wife a bottle of 7-up and we rested until she felt a little better. As soon as she did, we walked around and shopped, but neither of us was into it, so we took the next tender back. We felt bad! We really wanted to see Belize and from talking to the passengers who did spend several hours touring, it's a beautiful island. So much for Belize - oh well! Thursday - Cozumel We had been to Cozumel on our last cruise. As such, we really weren't to excited about returning. Don't get me wrong, Cozumel is a terrific port and you can have a lot of fun there (which we did) - it's just that we had "been there, done that." We arrived in Cozumel at approximately 7:00 A.M. to find a minimum of a dozen other ships in port. Imagine a dozen ships, each with approximately 2,000 passengers all going to shore at the same time! Cozumel was so crammed with people; it felt like were going to a world fair. Due to the fact there were so many other ships, there was not enough room for us to dock - so we tendered, again! I hate tendering, but caesura. I'd read a cruise review about "Nachi Cocum" beach, which sounded beautiful. Upon arriving at shore we spoke with a fellow at the Information Booth whom we asked about Nachi Cocum and what we should expect to pay for a cab. He verified what I had read, and he told us we could expect to pay less than $20.00 for a cab. Wrong! We were literally mobbed by cab drivers as we left the information booth and we found cab fare to be $32.00. We tried to negotiate with several drivers but found the cost to be the same with each. There were nine of us in our party, so $30.00 was actually a pretty reasonable fare. However, because we were provided with misinformation we felt like perhaps we were getting screwed. As it turned out our driver was a great guy and he told us there was a $10:00 per person admission charge at Nachi Cocum, which we were unaware of. He informed us of a beach located immediately next to Nachi Cocum called "Mr. Sanchos" it had no admission charge. He took us there and it was beautiful! On our last cruise to Cozumel we went to Chakanaab Park, which is located closer to port than Mr. Sanchos. Chakanaab also had an admission fee and the beach isn't close to being as beautiful as Mr. Sanchos beach! It had a great restaurant/bar, food, all kinds of shopping, great buys on t-shirts, Cuban cigars, jewelry - you name it! Snorkel equipment, kayaks, and practically every type of water activity is available at reasonable/negotiable rates. This was our last port of call, so we took advantage of our time and had a full day enjoying the beautiful water, sun, etc. The only down side was it was very crowded but there were no problems. Entertainment We were a group of nine, so we really made our own fun. However, I believe we hit every bar, lounge act, casino, and evening show the Sun had to offer. I really enjoyed Roger Hernandez who does a terrific Billy Joel nightly in the Windjammer Lounge. However, the rest of our party preferred other entertainment. We all enjoyed "Twice as Nice" who performed nightly in the Observation Lounge - they do any/everything very well. We went to several reviews at Dazzles and left early both times - poor to average at best. The Caribbean deck party is not to be missed I had a great time, unfortunately my wife wasn't feeling well that evening & she missed it. To be honest, we had our best time in the Sports bar where we met a passenger singing Frank Sinatra. I mean this guy sings Frank better than Frank - he's unbelievable. His name is Jason Nazzaro from Upper Saddle River, NJ. Checkout his web site @ info@nazzaroentertainment.com. I believe we heard Jason sing on Tuesday evening and once we did, we went back to hear him every night. In fact, my niece was supposed to be with us on this cruise but had to cancel at the last minute. The hockey team she plays for in college went to the NCAA Division III, National Championship in New York and (of course) she couldn't miss it! To make a long story short I asked Jason if he would dedicate "New York, New York" to her, which he was kind enough to do. My brother-in-law videotaped it and my niece was thrilled to see/hear him when we returned. Jason told me he's been trying to catch a break in Las Vegas and I have every reason to believe, someday we'll see him there. I'm sorry this review is getting so long, so I'll try and wrap it up. NCL does a terrific job of disembarkation. You pick up color coded luggage tags from the ship lobby on Friday morning, the tags are coded by your flight departure time leaving Miami. You have until 3:00 A.M. Saturday morning to affix your tags and place your luggage in the hallway outside your stateroom. On Saturday morning, you're depressed, your cruise is over and you wonder where the week went! In denial, we stayed in our room until we heard our tag color announced. We left the ship, found where our corresponding color tag luggage was being held, retrieved our luggage and got on the transport to the airport. Easy right - WRONG! It should have been easy, but somehow my luggage tag got separated from my luggage and I couldn't find it. We all searched for about a half-hour to no avail. I was the last one there; literally everyone else had recovered their luggage and was on their way to the airport. Finally, purely by luck, my wife found it mixed in with a bunch of other suitcases also missing their tags. We made our way to the transport, which by this time was completely full, so we had to wait for a mini-van to take us. On to the airport we went and our flight home was pretty uneventful. "Turn out the lights, the party's over" back to reality! I'll conclude by saying, though a lot of things throughout our cruise didn't go as well as we had expected we still had a great time. Will we ever cruise again? Yes! Will we cruise NCL again? Probably not! Would I recommend the Sun? No!

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Mar 15, 2003

Western Caribbean

Cruising the Western Caribbean on the NCL Norwegian Sun (March 15-22, 2003) The m/s Norwegian Sun is a "Freestyle" purpose built ship which seeks out adventure while plying the azure waters of the western Caribbean. The ship has one of the friendliest crews afloat, headed by Captain Constantinos Fafalios and hotel director Michael Klieverik who keep an immaculate ship. Norwegian Cruise Lines should be proud of the ship which

is adorned by beautiful artwork, sculpture and a very classy motif throughout the ship. Pre-cruise at South Beach. I usually like to arrive a day in advance to the point of departure, in case of weather delays for flights. It's also a great way to transition from working to the vacation. For this cruise, I chose to stay at the Marriott on South Beach which is a very nice hotel, centrally located on Ocean Drive. The highlight of the day before the cruise was sunset and dinner at Smith & Wollensky's. Manager Paul Spiess does an excellent job overseeing what I believe is the best place to dine in South Beach. Having a martini at sunset while watching the ships navigate the ship channel at Government Cut is a great way to end the day. The restaurant is located right on the ship channel, and the ships pass so close that you can almost touch them. This provides a fantastic backdrop for the restaurant. The food and service at Smith and Wollensky's is incredible, and an event that you should not miss on your next visit to Miami. Dining is either outdoors next to the water, or indoors with capacity up to 400. Show up a bit early for the sunset and have a martini or glass of champagne while Paul prepares a table for you. I had the crab cakes and lobster bisque for an appetizer which were just an incredible fusion of seafood and spice. For the main entree I had the lobster and steak, which was one of the best meals I've ever had. Paul is to be commended for running such a great operation. ( Smith & Wollensky, One Washington Avenue, South Pointe Park, Miami Beach, FL 33139 tel (305) 673-2800 fax (305) 673-5943 / Paul Spiess, Manager) The next day I boarded the Norwegian Sun around 3:00 p.m. and did not have to wait in line. It appears as though the big rush to embark is right at 1:00 p.m., so if you show up after that, you don't have to worry about the huge mass of people trying to get on the ship. The embarkation procedure is both fast and efficient. You have your photo taken and are issued a key card which not only opens your room, but also acts as your onboard credit card. After a security screening, I boarded the ship and proceeded to my stateroom cabin. On such a huge ship, passenger navigation can be a challenge, but Norwegian has properly fixed a generous number of easy to read maps at every major intersection. Elevators and stairways are strategically located to handle even the most tempest amounts of traffic. The beautiful atrium in the center of the ship from Deck 5 to Deck 11 is capped by a skylight which allows the entire area to be bathed in the tropical sunlight. The ship is a delight to cruise on. There were a number of public rooms on the ship which really stood out. The Observation Lounge on Deck 12 forward is a great place to view the Caribbean as the voyage progresses, or a martini before dinner with live entertainment after dinner. Amidships on Deck 6 is the Windjammer Bar which doubles as a piano bar in the evening with the fantastic Roger Hernandez who plays both guitar and piano to all your favorites. With a full capacity of 2,400 passengers on this Spring Break March 15, 2003 cruise, the ship never seemed crowded except however, during the sea days, when passengers teemed onto the upper decks scrambling for tanning space. I found if you just wait until after 2:00 p.m., there was no problem finding room. On such an efficiently planned ship, it seems odd that day tanning space is always at a premium. I'd eliminate the golf driving rooms and shuffleboard to make space. The basketball court takes a huge amount of room, but seemed well used during certain periods of the day. As far as I'm concerned, sports venues aboard a ship is a needless waste of space. The exception to the rule is a workout room which can be placed anywhere. Instead of deck lounges, I'd go to some type of hammock system which could easily be rolled up to save space. Towards the aft of the ship, there is a multilevel deck for morning and afternoon breakfast and lunch, which is covered from the Sun by a translucent canopy. When the ship is steaming along at 20 knots, combined with a sea breeze, it can get quite windy on the top decks. We had one day with 35 knot winds which made the upper decks extremely windy. One feature which I particularly loved, was the use of plants in the Atrium, and throughout the ship. It gives the ship a more lived-in warm look and enhances the classy nature of the ambiance while aboard. I had cabin 0008 on the Norway deck, which was unfortunately located right below the exercise room, and was awakened a few times by an aerobic class early in the morning. I always try to see where a cabin is located before booking, to make sure there is nothing but another cabin above me. The cabin had a small balcony and was well appointed with Cherry veneered cabinets with plenty of storage. The bathroom was compact and efficient. Both 110V and 220V outlets were available in the cabin, and a hairdryer is permanently affixed to the bathroom wall for your convenience. A small bar refrigerator is in the room, and two bottles of water are available for a $3.00 charge each. Ship cleanliness was perfect. Even above decks where the wind was blowing everything around. Pools and Jacuzzis were drained and cleaned nightly. After a day at the beach, people bring aboard amazing amounts of sand, which is promptly vacuumed by the staff. There are a few noticeable features of this cruise which really stood out. The first one is usually only found on luxury ships, and that is the attempt of the crew to learn your name. With 2,400 passengers, even that attempt is splendid, and by the end of the cruise, a good number of staff knew my name. This is the hallmark of great service. Kudos go out to the staff of the Norwegian Sun. The second feature which really stood out, was the incredible effort on behalf of Ray Williams, the concierge. I have never even seen a concierge on an economy line such as Norwegian, and I have to admit, it works quite well. What is a concierge you ask ? A concierge is primarily for the passengers in the upper class cabins, but is available to other passengers as well. They can accommodate small and large demands, but primarily act as a liaison for the passenger. As for me, I had contacted Public Relations in advance to arrange for a number of things on the ship (to make performing my ship review a bit easier). Of course, when I boarded the ship, nobody knew who I was and Public Relations turned out to be a flop. Luckily, I explained my situation to Ray, to was extremely helpful and did everything he could to accommodate my requests. He made up for the poor service from Public Relations in Miami. Thanks Ray ! It's the little things like that which make a cruise really stand out. With the outbreak of the Norwalk Virus on other cruise lines, Norwegian has taken a proactive stance, and has in-place an extensive regime of measures to insure that the most sanitary conditions as possible. The crew will opt-out from shaking hands (most of the time), and moist towelettes are required for all to be used when boarding the ship, and recommended before meals. There was never a time when I didn't see somebody cleaning the handrails or hallway walls, which reinforces the effort on behalf of Norwegian to keep a clean ship. The food on the ship was quite varied. Part of the "Freestyle" design is for a number of restaurants ranging from Oriental to Italian. Food quality ranged from fantastic (Teppanyaki) to good (main restaurants) to average (Pacific Heights). The downside to the more upscale restaurants was the fact that you needed reservations, and you had to pay for them (either a flat cover charge or in the case of Sushi, a per item fee). The reservation system needs to be thrown out, it simply doesn't work. The Ginza area was never at more than 20 percent of capacity, while in the main dining rooms, there were times you had to wait more than 20 minutes. A better system for all the restaurants is to eliminated the reservation system, and go to a beeper system in high demand (a beeper is provided when your table is ready). While the room service menu was fairly basic, the service was prompt (usually within 15 minutes) even at 3:00 a.m. The shore tours were well varied. I chose to take the most expensive tour, a day trip to Guatemala to visit the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal. After tendering to shore in Belize City, we bused to the international airport and flew to Peten, and after boarding another bus finally arrived at the most spectacular array of temples that I have ever seen. This tour is priceless. The sheer size of the Mayan pyramids against the backdrop of the jungle simple makes you gaze upon the temples in awe. In this one area there were over 10,000 platforms covering 200 square miles. In Cozumel, a rental car proved to be the most economical and fun way to see the island. Sometimes it's fun to plan your own adventure. However, if you want an organized tour, the ship tours are always a good option. This is one of the newer ships which was specifically built for what Norwegian calls "Freestyle Cruising." Let me tell you, there's nothing "Free" in the coined term, which is designed to mimic what happens normally on the upscale and luxury ships. I'll give credit to Norwegian for providing an option to "traditional" cruising, but it's clear the concept still needs a great deal of work. The number of different restaurants definitely worked well, however when I pay for a cruise, I just assume the food is included. With "Freestyle" only the main restaurants are included (Pacific Heights or the Tapas Bar didn't charge either). "Dine when you want, and with whom you want." Not exactly. You can only dine when you have a reservation to dine (if you can get one) in the specialty restaurants. What surprised me was the 20 minute wait one evening for one of the no-cover main dining rooms. I actually miss having a set dinner time and being able to sit with people I don't know. Part of traveling is meeting new people, and "Freestyle" dining precludes this. Why would you want to eliminate one of the best aspects of cruising ? While Norwegian "suggests" proper attire, it was common to see people in shorts, amongst people dressed in tuxedoes. An evening dress code should be enforced. Freestyle in this case means a large discrepancy in tasteful attire. The other touted benefits of "Freestyle" cruising include not waiting in lines, and other benefits, none of which became ever became reality. So while Norwegian might be on to a good concept with "Freestyle" it has a lot of work yet to be done. My overall impression on the concept was that I was being constantly being nickel-and-dimed, and was relentlessly exposed to up-selling. At dinner, you are offered your choice of two bottled waters-- choose the "NCL Ship Water." There's a fine line between a classy presentation and up-selling. My overall impression of the Norwegian Sun is very good. The ship is new and the staff is just wonderful. Even though we missed the port of Grand Cayman due to poor weather, the entire itinerary in the Western Caribbean was excellent and I highly recommend a cruise on this ship. Adventures abound when you look for them and the Norwegian Sun is part of a fun adventure. Good seas and fair winds Greg "Pepe" Giese Madison, WI 3/25/2003 Photo Tour of Ship and Cruise at: www.cruisingreview.com

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Feb 22, 2003

Western Caribbean

Sue We sailed on the Sun on February 22, 2003. We were a group of 15 people, including 8 teenagers ranging from 13 – 19. Thank goodness we were with a group of people who could make their own good time. First, the ship is lovely, and very clean. We had one balcony stateroom that was large and wonderfully appointed, and one inside stateroom for our 3 kids, that worked well for them. However, we NEVER once saw our cabin steward nor

did he choose to find us to introduce himself. The staff on the ship is mediocre. We bought the soda cards and found that the bar people seemed very annoyed when we wanted to use them. Because your tips go on your bill everyday and you pay an automatic tip amount of 15% on purchased drinks, the staff has NO incentive to go out of their way for you. It is almost impossible to get something that isn’t on the menu. In fact, my husband wanted onions in his omelet one morning and was told he could NOT have them because they weren’t on the menu for omelets. But, onions were included in another menu item that morning. At the buffet, they would close it down and not have another location open that had everything on it, and when I asked to get a bagel and some lox (that was in plain sight behind the counter) I was also told NO. They even closed one of the only two main dining rooms one night for a private party, and never informed the passengers. It was a ‘too bad” attitude. There were very few kids on the ship and the teen program left something to be desired. The younger teens just hung out together, but fortunately could go to shows to entertain themselves. We had many friends on the Royal Caribbean Navigator the exact same week (even ran into them in Cozumel), and in comparing notes, their ship had SO much for the kids to do – rock climbing, ice rink, putt putt, and more. The Sun does have a basketball court, but seriously lacks amenities for kids. It is true that they try to get into your pockets at every turn. We spent over $1,500 on board and we only booked one excursion (dolphins) through the ship. We found that the price of the excursions on board was very high. In fact, they charged $28 pp for an excursion to Playa del Sol in Cozumel, and it only costs $8 to get in. While it did include drinks – you still could save a fortune doing these things yourself. My husband and kids went scuba diving (first time ever) at a local beach for $50 pp as opposed to the $120 pp that the ship wanted. We also contracted with our own driver to take us around Belize for $80 for all 5 of us (went to the Mayan Ruins), as opposed to the $55 pp the ship charged. Cayman Islands seems to be a problem regularly, and we didn’t get into the port because the seas were too rough. Freestyle Cruising has its benefits since you can choose your time to eat, but the wait staff could really care less about your needs and the better restaurants cost you between $10 pp & 12.50 pp. Their soda machine was not working properly one night at one of these “special restaurants”, and when we asked for Coke in cans, they wouldn’t do it because we had the “Coke cards” and that only entitled us to soda from the fountain. We paid over $7,000 for this trip, and while the ports were excellent, and lots of fun, we would DEFINITELY choose a different cruise line next time. NCL runs their ships like they are a bargain basement purchase, and has a long way to go to compete with other cruise lines in their category.

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Aug 29, 2002

Western Caribbean

We cruised the Norwegian Sun on 8/31/02 as a celebration of my mothers 60th birthday. There were 9 in our party occupying 4 deluxe staterooms with balconies. This was my 14th cruise (my first on NCL) and a first for my mother, her husband, and my brother and his family. Others in our party had also cruised before. Embarkation was a breeze and we were one of the first ones in the door. However, we did observe that embarkation gets a little

more hectic if you arrive after 12 AM. The first meal we tried was served in the Garden Café and included self serve tacos which were delicious. There was also a wonderful curry served one day that was so delicious that we went back for seconds. It seems that on most cruises the desserts sometimes look fantastic but fall short on taste and this ship was no exception in that category although, there were a few desserts that were exceptionally delicious enough to mention. The crème bruelee that was served in the dinning room and a rhubarb pie served in the Garden Café were very delicious. We found the rooms to be very roomy with plenty of storage space and loved the bathroom shower that included an adjustable shower head. Having a room with a balcony was wonderful (a first for all of us) and a special treat that my mother really enjoyed! The sheets and duvet were exceptionally soft but there was always that annoying "hump" in the middle of the bed where the two twin beds were pushed together to make a double bed. The ship was lovely without being too gaudy and flashy. We were a little concerned about "Freestyle Cruising" since this was our first experience with that type of service. The service in our room was very good although I did miss the special touches such as the "towel art" that I was accustomed to on other ships. We asked for an extra bucket of ice in our room and from then on there were always two full buckets. The service in my sister's room was not as good as ours and they had a few complaints about the cleanliness a few times. My brother and his wife were very pleased with the Kids Crew program. Since school had already started there was not an abundance of children so there was plenty of staff to cater to the children's needs. We did not try any of the specialty restaurants that had an extra cost but we did try the Pacific Heights which used the Cooking Light menu and were so pleased with it that we ate there several nights. The calzone was delicious and could be ordered with or without meat. About half of our group are vegetarians and we found plenty to eat but wish there were even more to choose from. The meatloaf in the Pacific Heights got great raves and was ordered at more than one meal. We found the service in the Pacific Heights to be superb. Anything we asked for was answered with a smiling, friendly "certainly" by our waitress. The main dining rooms, the Four Seasons and the Seven Seas, were very similar and the service was very acceptable. We celebrated my mother's birthday at the Four Seasons one night. It was a fun and exciting time where we were greeted with a bottle of champagne (we chose bottled water) and a small birthday cake with her name on it while Happy Birthday was sung to her by the waiters. There were no extravagant Midnight Buffets which was a little disappointing but there was a Chocolate Extravaganza one night that was very eye appealing. The shore excursions were excellent. Our first day and our last day were at sea with the ports of call the four days in the middle. Our first stop was Grand Cayman. We booked a Stingray City tour on line through Captain Marvin's and it was a real highlight. It was a little cheaper than booking through the cruise and we got an extra snorkeling stop. Captain Kirk stopped in two different places to let us snorkel before arriving at Stingray City, he was very informative and we were the only party on his boat. Everyone loved swimming with the stingrays and Captain Kirk even knew their names. Our next stop was Honduras. A very poor and simple place but once we got off our bus at Tabyana Beach it was heaven! This was one of the most beautiful beaches that I have ever seen! We snorkeled with our cruise guide and he would dive down and get items, bring them up to the surface and tell us about them. Lunch was also served and I must say that the spaghetti was absolutely wonderful! They also served hamburgers, salad and fruit and the most different tea I have every tasted. My mother said it was a "dream day" for her. Our next stop was Belize. I cannot speak from experience here because my husband and I overslept and missed our excursion but we were told that it was very fun. We had booked the Cave Tubing and Jungle Walk tour which was 88 dollars a piece and we were told that we could not get our money back if we cancelled less than 24 hour ahead of time. When we got to the excursion desk we were treated very nicely and given several options and told we would get our money back. This really impressed us about Norwegian Cruise Lines and I hope they realize that it represented very good customer service. After that it was on to Cozumel. Many in our group had already been to Cozumel and after cave tubing we were ready for a rest. We shopped in the morning and found a beach called San Francisco Beach where we just laid out, swam and rented some jet skis. It rained a little but we still had fun. This was one of the calmest rides I have ever had on a cruise ship. Smooth sailing the whole way! The entertainment was excellent! The cruise director was one of the funniest that I have ever seen. There was a magician/juggler/comedian that was absolutely hilarious! He was on the first night and I would say that this is a show not to be missed! The singer Jane Powell was also very entertaining and funny. One night Jimmy "J.J." Walker did the show and it was fantastic! (Although, he was a special show and was only on board for two weeks.) Disembarkation was the best I have EVER had! You get color coded tags according to the time you want to disembark and let me recommend that if you want to stay on the ship and leave late to get your tickets early because the later ones run out the quickest. We wanted to be able to sleep in, have breakfast and visit some before leaving the ship. We were not crowded into some lounge and forced to sit there for hours before being allowed to leave the ship. It was very calm and leisurely and very quick! I believe we were the last passengers off the ship. Overall I would recommend the Norwegian Sun and NCL cruise lines and would sail with them again. The freestyle cruising and tipping turned out to be much better than I expected and it was a dream vacation for all of us.

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Aug 23, 2002

Exotic Western Caribbean

Our cruise review of the 8/24 SUN cruise. Lets first get the weather out of the way: it was fantastic the whole week, with a little needed cloud cover in Cozumel to knock back the heat. About Us: I'm 45, my wife is 37, and our two kids are 15 and 6. This was our 10th cruise. We cruised once on the BRB, 4 times each on CCL and RCI Leaving NYC out of LAG: Pushed back 4 minutes early at 07:18, then sat on the runway till 08:00

due to claims of bad weather down south. Smooth flight, still arrived on time. Miami Airport to pier: Luggage arrived fast, no wait for a taxi with set fair of $18 to pier. At NCL Terminal: Arrived shortly after 11:15, walked right up and checked in, no lines. Mentioned we did early registration, didn't seem to matter. Then had to wait till the boarding started at 12:00, seems the Coast Guard delayed clearing the ship, a NCL rep said they usually have it cleared around 11:30. Still, a short wait on line, aboard by 12:10. The Paxs: Was told there were 2,224 aboard, over 400 kids. The Waiting In Line: Never had a wait for dinner, the shows, or tenders, even for disembarkation. All the waiting was spent on line boarding the SUN. Our Cabin: No escort. Found our Cat BA cabin #1002 on the Deck 11 (pool deck), a forward facing cabin next to the Owners Suite (1003), with our balcony having teak decking with 2 full size chairs, 2 full size lounge chairs, and one table. Cabin was spotless though wear and tear was evident (stained carpets, chipped furniture, even had a piece of molding fall off the wall). Nice 19 inch color TV with video jacks in the front for playing back your recorded videos or video games if you brought along a PS2. Two robes were found in the largest closet, and a plate of fruit was delivered to us by our cabin steward. Home for the next 7 days. Our Steward: Joseph was fantastic...Joseph got the Star Performer of the Week award. Need I say more! (he got dinner for two at an onboard restaurant of his choice, a gift certificate, and most important, a day off, of his choice). Never had a problem being shorted on towels or ice, being denied any request, and always had complete upkeep of our cabin. Joseph was omni-present, always there, remembered all of our names and always shouted a hello to us, even when we strolled past him in another cabin, down on his hands and knees, scrubbing the door to their bathroom. Tour of the Owners Suite: Joseph gave us a tour of cabin 1003 since those folks hadn't checked in yet. All's I can say is; WOW! And that was before we saw their balcony which was even larger than ours, with a hot tub. Life Boat Drill: Quickest we've experienced, all of 14 minutes, though we had a female Drill Instructor shouting out orders...NCL (or her) do take their safety seriously! Departure: Pretty close to on time, a bit after 4pm. Enjoyed the sailing out of the cut, all from the privacy of our balcony, cocktail and field glasses in hand. Freestyle Dining: Loved it, worked real well for us. Usually went to dinner between 6 and 6:45 pm. Never had a line for getting into the restaurants. Waitress, Dining, and Restaurants: First night, we choose the 7 Seas Room, and due to probably the best waitress we ever had: Bogdanka, we never wanted to leave table 216 (all the way aft by the windows, port side) and try the 4 Seasons. Our first meal took all of 35 minutes, the service was that great, didn't even feel rushed. Every dinner we had was under one hour, except for Thursday when leaving Mexico, as we wanted to stretch out dinner and see Cozumel float by during sunset and see all the city lights. We also did Pacific Heights and East Meets West (cover charge is $5 up till 6:30 pm, no charge for our 6 year old). The Meals: All generally good in the 3 rooms mentioned above: -7 Seas: Ate a lot of soup, fish, salad, and steak...good to very good. Even enjoyed the two lobster tails you get on Thursday. The few times we had dessert (we usually ended up doing a 'pu-pu' platter of entrees), they were also good. Our 6 year old's kids menu had plenty of choices to satisfy her (and me at times) -Pacific Heights: Saturday night we made reservations for Sunday. We had our choice of seats. Really enjoyed the pork chops and calzones. Great Southwestern chowder! -East Meets West: Whoa...nice mixture or clash of the two cultures. Great beef dish, the wontons were unlike any I've ever ate before. Once again, sampled a little bit of everything, a totally different food experience -vs- the take out Chinese down the street. I enjoyed everything I touched, my wife was a little more judgmental, but still thought the food was 'unique'. -Las Ramblas: always enjoyed any of their food they had out. Great soup and sandwiches. No pressure ever to buy a drink. Place was never crowded. -The Buffets: Not bad, variety and volume is the name of the game here. Always something slightly different each day for breakfast or lunch. The made to order omelets were very good and always sported a line. During Sea Days, the Outdoor Grill had some very good variations of BBQ food, and at least 3 different type of chicken wings and pizza were available during the cruise. Tables always seemed to be bused in a timely fashion (saw 3 staff members swoop down on the same table within seconds of it being vacated) The Shows: Never crowded, never had a problem finding a seat, though we usually showed up 15 minutes prior to the start. Missed the first night, attended all other shows. Enjoyed Cirque Pan and the first Jane Powell show (nothing else needs to be said except her 2nd show (the ships 'Farewell' show, seemed a little weak)). Didn't care for Que Noche at all. Jimmy (JJ) Walker was onboard and had a real funny act (not one shout of DYNOMITE!). Liars Club was also a very enjoyable experience. The various lounge singers earned their pay. The Cruise Director: Rich C and Bingo Bruce got the job done. I'd say slightly above average. Rich was dead on with the Rain Man and Pee Wee. Appears NCL doesn't stage 'passengers' in the audience to interact with the CD during shows. Various Ship Board Activity: Always had plenty to do or watch. Could get free bingo cards, $9 cards for 5 games, or $12 for the daily jackpot. The casino is nicely sized, plenty of slots (though they weren't kind to me), midnight snacks can be found here. Enjoyed seeing the art auctions, volleyball, basketball, hitting golf balls and baseballs, the pool deck band and activities such as Ice Carving demonstrations, Horse Racing, etc The Pool Deck: Some decent late night shows were held on the stage here. During the days at Sea, this area does indeed get crowded. Usually didn't have a problem finding a lounge chair, but when we did come up short, no problem just parking it on the wooden wall that surrounds the two Oasis Pools and hot tubs. The children’s pool area was nice for the limited amount of space they devoted here. The Ports of Calls and Excursions: JUST EXCELLENT! -Grand Cayman: NativeWay sports must be giving Capt. Marvin’s a run for their money in terms of clients. Great personal service for us 15 on this excursion. We had the 2 stop 2 1/2 hour snorkel tour turn into a 3 stop (Barrier Reef, Coral Gardens, and Stingray City) 3+ hour tour. $25 per snorkeler, $10 for my wife and daughter to come along for the ride and watch us do our thing. All 3 stops were great, the fish, coral and stingrays were a-plenty. Just fantastic clear, clean water at the sandbar, and I couldn't do justice trying to explain the Stingray experience...gotta do it. They even picked up a ray and brought it over to my daughter who was sitting on the boat and let her feed and pet it, where she was promptly awarded with a nice spit of water in the face, from the ray. (hope my pictures do this overall experience some justice). Juice and ice water was included and we were dropped off at 7 mile beach on the way back. (We thought 7 mile beach was over-rated, no soft white sand where we were (believe it was the Royal Palms area, though we had great views of the Sun)). Had time to visit Eden Rock and feed the fishes Corn Flakes and watch them go crazy. -Roatan: Loved It!!! Beautiful Island and people (what does the pier near Miami have that Roatan doesn't?...homeless people. Just had to say this, I don't know why)). We were able to dock here. After experiencing the rush of being swarmed by taxi drivers and tour operators, we negotiated hiring a taxi for the day. Prices started at $100 for the four of us, everyone ending up being happy with the price of $60 we settled on. We ended up with Jermnoy Webster, taxi #140 and off we went for a tour of the east side of the island with stops at the airport tower (what views), two ship wrecks, and the Las Palms shopping area (just a beautiful beach area) before heading off to tour of the West End/Bay side. We stopped at what I believe was called the Maya Princess Resort, just down the beach from the ships excursion at Tabyana...what a great beach, one of the best examples of a true Caribbean, tropical beach experience. We stayed here for almost 3 hours while our driver waited for us, then went back to the pier, via the southern route, with great vistas of the sea, coral, and NCL SUN. ***Do note: Roatan is indeed a poor island. We saw families living under blankets stretched over clothes lines, in ravines between two hills. Some school buildings were mere planks nailed together. A gas station consisted of a shack, where you bought gas in gallon jugs (a nasty dark orange looking gas that made our taxi run real bad the rest of the day (added a little charm to our Roatan experience) that was poured into the tank via a funnel. Still a great, lush tropical island, with some of the happiest, always smiling people, we've ever met in the Islands*** -Belize: Another great experience, mostly due to Reggie (cave tubing for my son and I) and his 19 year old son (Zoo/City tour for my wife and daughter)!!! Reggie met us on the dock, and by 09:30, the 12 of us were off for cave tubing. All the good praise you've read about Reggie is 110% accurate, we highly recommend Reggie for both tours. Excellent hike through jungle and bat cave and along the banks of the river. Loved forging the river in our tubes, holding onto a rope, to reach the other bank of the river. Was indeed a bit muddy in places, with uphill portions using cuts in the rock, wooden planking, or tree roots, as steps. The river was just at the right height with the right amount of current. Only had to forge the rapids twice (not because they were too fast, but because the water depth was too shallow...ever hear of a butt bark?). Great experience floating in a deep, dark cave, hearing the faint sound of rapids down river, then turning on your head lamp to see the interior light up. And the best was saved for last: we exited the last cave into a tropical sun shower, while tubing down a wide portion of the river, leading to a fork: you had the choice of walking over a gravel bank or riding the current through a 90 degree bend in the river, testing your tubing navigation against a few 'obstructions', have no fear, Reggie was there! He had your complete safety in mind, which was his number one concern! -Other highlights: having Reggie narrate the local history of the surrounding mountains, describing the plants, flowers, and fruits that were seen during your hike through the jungle, seeing a trail of green marching across the jungle floor in front of you (ants carry little leaves that they 'process' into mold and then eat), a visit to the BAT cave, and finally, a stop at a local restaurant for rice and beans (or was it beans and rice, there is a difference.) and drinking a cold local brew. This stop had drop dead gorgeous views of lush plains and valleys with tropical plantasia, leading to vistas of mountains in the background shrouded in clouds...a true Kodak moment. Thanks Reggie!!! -Cozumel: NCL no offer the Passion Island Excursion, too many mixed reviews. However, no worries, found my lost shaker of salt at Playa del Sol! A great stop and ya know what? This was the only excursion the ship offered that was cheaper than doing it on your own. But first: the taxi drivers were on partial strike (full strike the day before) and NCL arranged water taxis for $8 R/T to Playa del Sol (cheaper than the $14-15 taxi ride one way) and $22 for a beach break: all the great stuff that has been posted here before that the beach offers, plus beer and drinks for the day at $22 -vs- $25 the beach wanted. The pool was outstanding for our kids, all the activities they offered kept us entertained for hours. We then went back to the ship around 1:30, showered, lunched, napped and left again at 4pm for: -Mini Golf: What a great little oasis right past the town plaza, get to see the real side of Cozumel during your walk to the course. While you pay $7 for the adults ($5 for our 6 year old), your given a menu of CDs to chose from, to be played while golfing, asked what type of refreshments you want to drink before you start play, and then given a 2-way radio for ordering drinks while out on this tropical, shaded course. Just a fun time had by all, with our 6 year old getting the only hole in one. -Other Cozumel Activities: hair braiding, $1 a braid, including beads, being solicited for cigars or to get high, watching the local artists draw and paint, shopping, watching the local taxi drivers march and strike, walking along the seawall, having a peak inside C&Cs new location, then enjoying a stroll along the pier back to the ship, and eating dinner while sailing off into the sunset, seeing Cozumel slip behind in the ships wake, while being winked at by the two lighthouses. ***NOTE: Unlike or recent Voyager of the Seas cruise where the ship was the highlight, the ports of calls and the excursions where the SUN's highlights for us!*** Disembarkation and home to NY: Got some lime green tags to be on the last call off the ship. Was told this would be at 10:05. We got called and left our cabin at 09:11 and where into our taxi to the Miami airport at 09:34. No problem with finding our luggage or waiting in line for customs...nice job NCL: able to wait in our cabin the whole time after having breakfast. At Miami Airport: Swimming pool, hot tub, lockers, shower, pub grub, cocktails, and working our tan for 5 hours...geez, almost felt we were still on the SUN, but nope, Airport Hotel, Rooftop Club in concourse E, and what a great view of take offs and landings for you airport buffs. We had a 5:15 pm flight. No problem with early check-in of luggage. Once again, American Airlines played the overbooking game and we left 35 minutes late to NYC. Slightly nasty flight attendants this time, they must of had a long day. Touched down at 8:18pm, grabbed our luggage, and home at 10pm. Would we sail NCL again: Hmm, possibly. Like quite a few others we spoke to, seems RCI is the game in town, but we would try Princess or Celebrity before doing NCL again. After being on the VOTS, even at some 77,000 tons and being over 800 feet long, the SUN felt small and slightly lacking in various aspects the VOTS offered, I guess we're fans of the bigger is better idea. Though we thought the service was superior on the SUN. And, Freestyle dining worked really well for us! Finally, our dislikes/just ok part of this cruise experience...please keep in mind the good far outweighed the bad and most of below were observations: Having to wait till 5:30 the first night to get our kids their soda cards, and you can only get them from the Kids Club. No hotdogs, burgers, or pizza to be found (even though they were announcing pizza can be had in the Garden Cafe) till about 5:45 PM on embarkation day...try getting the kids to eat fish, meatloaf, or curried chicken during lunch...didn't work, they were starved by dinner time (though Dad screwed up and forgot about room service) The selling of drinks in souvenir cups: NCL stations at least 2-3 staff members right outside the doors leading onto the pool deck, handing you a drink as your stepping through the door, never mentioning they cost money, nor wearing any kind of button saying the same...we didn't fall for it, but many people did, especially with the announcements of: "Come join our sail away party" No sliding doors leading to the pool deck from the cabins/atrium. I said it before: I still miss the cushioned deck chairs on the promenade deck. No NCL staff 'supervising' the Kids Pool. I know kids will be kids, but the bigger ones had no concern or courtesy towards the little ones and after quite a few knock downs, being splashed or squirted, it looked like a Jerry Springer show fight was gonna break out between some parents. TV Channels...Hmm, too much TNT and 'our favorite' shows being shown over and over again. The first run movies were pretty lame and only got worse the 5th time they were on. And to see all the ship's shows put on during the week, you have to 'type' in channel 28 on the remote as the up and down channel selection buttons skip right past 28 I thought I saw the ship rats (think mall rats) start to show up about 2pm on the last day of the cruise, but they were nowhere to be found, cluttering up the stairwells and being surly when politely asked to move aside, or just plain old hanging out in the elevators, after midnight, like they were around early afternoon. I think NCL had some sort of teen program going on during the late hours of the last night, good for them! Having the talent show in the observation lounge, too small a venue, with very poor sight lines. Credit foul-ups. We were lucky, NCL only gifted us with a $30 bingo charge we didn't make. IMHO, NCL needs to allow you to view your credit statement via your TV or at least give you your statement earlier than they currently do. They only allow you to address disputes from 05:30 to after 8am on disembarkation day. The line was very long: $150 charge in the salon that didn't happen, with the lady missing her NCL provided transportation to someplace and being told she had to take a taxi without NCL picking up the tab, a gentlemen being charged $90 for a advance in the casino he didn't request, another false charge for bingo, etc, etc...some lady was on line so long with her little kid, that the kid got sick and the lady had her kid stand in the middle of the atrium, throwing up and making a mess, as a type of payback to NCL for making a mistake on her credit account and then having her wait in line for so long to have it corrected. Finally, can't blame this on NCL, but it leaves a bad final impression of your cruise experience when disembarking and someone B&Ms and cries that you cut them off in line to customs because you weren't ahead of them in line when they walked of the gangplank, and then have them muttering behind your back, all the way through customs and into baggage claim. This was a long review, sorry. Disregarding the above, we did indeed have fun in (and on) the SUN!

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Aug 23, 2002

Western Caribbean

Our group of 16 returned on August 31st from a wonderful week on the NCL Sun. Out of the 16 we had four children ranging in age 1 to 14. More than half the group had cruised before on different lines. We made our own arrangements to fly from New York to Miami and were going on two difference flights. Both our flights went smoothly. My main concerns when traveling are good weather, clean rooms and decent food. Before going on the cruise some

of our group read reviews to get an idea of what to expect and what to do on the islands. Some of the reviews I read on a variety of websites were totally contradicting, two people with completely different experiences that were on the Sun during the same week. Of course, this is not surprising; everyone has a right to his or her own views. Some people see the glass half full and some half empty. I believe our group was the half full type. I thought embarkation went fine; we got on the ship within an hour, the only thing holding us up were photos taken as you boarded. We met up with the rest of our group and had lunch and drinks and walked around the ship. We were told our luggage would arrive by six, if I recall correctly everyone got their luggage in time to shower and change for dinner at 6:00. We made reservations in the Seven Seas restaurant and had a table for sixteen and a very polite and very nice waiter. He did some napkin tricks and origami, which was entertaining for the kids and us adults also. After that, we had a different waiter for the rest of the week, Made, from Bali, he was also very nice, polite and accommodating. What memories they have, I couldn’t imagine dealing with a table of 16. He was wonderful and we tipped him extra and also the other waiter helping him, they deserved it. We ate all but one of our dinners in the Seven Seas and went to the Four Seasons one night. Our dinners ranged from good to excellent. They had some really interesting and unique choices. They always had a cold soup on the menu and they were delicious, more like dessert than soup. They had a variety of appetizers and entrees, a vegetarian dish every night, which is what my sister in law usually ordered and she said they were very good., there was always something on the menu to order and if you couldn’t make a decision the waiter would bring out both your choices. The desserts were delicious, I am still thinking about them. If we saw something on the Four Seasons menu that we preferred we could order it even though we were dining in Seven Seas. The staff was very accommodating and they went out of their way to make us happy. I read a review that said that 90% of the staff on the Sun weren’t nice, don’t know what ship he was on but we never came across anyone who was not accommodating and friendly. The ship is new and beautiful, very clean. Some of the group figured it our right away and some it took a little longer. We didn’t have any problems getting from one side of the ship to the other. Our rooms were a good size. Some of our group had balcony rooms and some had inside staterooms for four. The inside state rooms for four were roomy and the sofa bed pulled out, my nephews said they slept fine. They brought in a crib for the one year old. What I would recommend is to bring a illuminated clock so if you are in an inside room you don’t have to turn on a light to see what time it is. Even in the balcony room, once you close the curtains it is dark so that would be helpful. The phones can be set for wakeup calls, which is convenient. Our steward Charles always had a smile for us and our room was spotless beds turned down with a chocolate on each bed. On our first night we left our room looking like a clothes bomb went off and found it nice and neat when we returned. We tipped him extra at the end of the week, because we wanted to. The pool area was nice and since someone in the group was always up early we never had a problem getting lounges in the sun and also in the shade. The group that had cruised before said the two pools were a good size; they also had four Jacuzzis between the pools. They are not pools to swim in but to just get wet. They were salt water and were emptied every evening and refilled. I don’t know if that is what all the pools are like on other cruise lines. I thought it was a great idea. They were pushing the drinks, could be a little annoying at times, the drinks were $4.95 for a regular size but if you wanted the special glasses they started at $7.95 and up (depending on the size) refills were then cheaper. The buffets, well, they were buffets, we weren’t expecting gourmet meals. I enjoyed the fish and seafood salads that were served and they always had a variety of desserts (yummy) we always found something to eat and were happy with our meals, no complaints. We mostly ate breakfast at the buffets and also went and had sit down breakfast in the restaurants which was very good, lots of choices on the menu and much more relaxed than the buffet. In the Caymans, some of the group took the ship excursion to Stingray City and raved about it. My nephews didn’t want to get out of the water. The rest of our group went to the beach. The beach was beautiful but there were lots of rocks on the beach, especially getting in and out of the water. It was painful getting in and out. We sort of felt that our taxi just dumped us at the first beach he came to. We set a time for him to pick us up and he charged $3.00 per person each way. We then went into town and looked in the shops a while. In Roatan, not all the group got off the ship and some that did were a little reluctant. Some of the reviews that they read scared them and they also read about the sand fleas on the beach. I wanted to go to the beach, the pictures I saw on the internet looked beautiful. When we got off the ship we were approached by a gentleman and we discussed going to West Bay, he arranged for a van to take all of us and charged $15.00 per person round trip. He would come and pick us up at the time we wanted and he would be paid when he returned us to the ship. The ride to the beach was on a road along the shore that was eye-opening lots of shacks and poverty. My nephews had questions, they had never seen anything like that. All the children we passed waved hello, I kept thinking how lucky we were and I am sure the rest of the group was thinking the same. We may have gotten the oldest van on the island and we were wondering if we were going to make it up and over the mountain to the beach. Some of the views were just beautiful. We came to the Mayan Princess, which is under construction and look like beautiful villas, and our driver walked us to the beach, after seeing all the construction we didn’t know what to expect but as we walked through the restaurant/bar onto the beach we were in paradise. I have seen many beaches and this was up there on top of the list of most beautiful beaches. There were lounges we could use and umbrellas for shade as long as we ordered drinks or food. No problem for our group. We had a wonderful day. I didn’t want to leave. A couple of the group got bites from the sand fleas but they don’t itch just leave a red mark. Nothing to be concerned about. Belize – make plans for an excursion because there is nothing to do in the city. I went to Caye Caulker, one of the islands, I took a water taxi that was by the tender, the cost $12.00 US round trip, there is also another water taxi by the swing bridge in town with a better schedule. It took 45 minutes to get there and the ride was really nice and water beautiful. We passed many islands along the way. They dropped me off and I walked across the island, that took about 5 minutes or less. There are restaurants and shops, it was cute. The beach, well, the whole island is sort of a beach but the area I walked through was not a really soft sandy beach and there was a lot of sea grass and small wooden docks every 20 feet or so along the beach side. I sat under a palm (lots of palms) and relaxed. It was a very laid back atmosphere. I caught the water taxi back (and they are right on time) and enjoyed the ride back. Cozumel – Some of the group went to Chankanaab to snorkel, the water is absolutely beautiful, lot of fish, my nephews were very happy taking underwater photos, which you can buy there and also rent snorkel equipment. We then went to meet the rest of the group at Mr. Sanchos. They have a restaurant and bar on the beach with pallapas for shade chairs and lounges. You can use it as long as you buy drinks/food. The weather was good for most of our time there and then a storm came through that lasted about ½ hour. Then the weather got nice again. It seems it only rained on that side of the beach. We then went to town and looked in the shops. That night was lobster night which some of us had. They served two tails, the lobster was delicious, so tender, we had bananas foster for dessert, who could ask for a better day. Our day at sea was spent relaxing. I made an appointment for a hair treatment and scalp massage. It was absolutely wonderful. Dina also massaged my neck, shoulders and top of my back. I almost fell asleep. Wonderful way to end the cruise. So that was our week. Our weather was absolutely beautiful food great and accommodations wonderful. I was happy.

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Aug 2, 2002

Western Caribbean

We arrived at Port of Miami around 1:00. We stood in line for almost 2 hours before we could get on the ship. That was no fun at all. When we finally got on they had stopped serving lunch in the restaurant so we ate at the Great Outdoor Buffet. I was really not impressed at all with the buffet food. Stateroom: We had an inside stateroom on deck 9 right in the center of the ship. We had plenty of space and the room was near three sets of

elevators, which came in handy. The room was always clean, but the room stewards never even introduced themselves to us. The only problem we had with the stateroom is that almost every day they would only leave us one washcloth and there were two of us in the room. Restaurants: We ate most of our breakfast and dinner meals in either Four Seasons or Seven Seas dining room. Only one dining room was open for breakfast. The omelets and all egg items were really good. We met a server in the Seven Seas restaurant on the 3rd night that we were really impressed with so we made reservations for his table every night after that. The dinner meals were really good and we had good service. Lunch on the other hand was not impressive. This ship had 9 restaurants and they only opened the Great Outdoor and the Garden Café Buffet for lunch. The buffet food was nothing special. They did open one of the dining rooms on the two days at sea, but the menu was not very appealing. We even ordered peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from room service two days for lunch. We looked at all the menus for the specialty restaurants and decided we really didn’t want to pay $10 to eat for dinner when we could eat great meals in the dining room. We did eat the first night in Ginza (Tappanyaki). This is where they cook in front of you. We had steak, shrimp and oysters along with fried rice and grilled vegetables. It was the best meal we had the whole week. Everything was priced a la carte. We paid $12 per person and it was well worth it. Entertainment: This is the area NCL really shines. We attended all of the big shows in the Stardust Lounge. The first night was a variety show where they showcased several of the entertainers we would see throughout the week. The second night was a Broadway type show called Encore Mr. Producer put on by the Jean Ann Ryan Company. This was a very good show, if you like Broadway shows. The third and last night was a singer named Jane L. Powell. She was an excellent performer. The forth night was another show performed by the Jean Ann Ryan Company called Que Noche. I liked this one better than the first show they performed. The fifth night was a juggler, comedian named Billy Prudhomme. He was really funny. The show on the sixth night was suppose to be Cirque Pan performed by the Jean Ann Ryan Company, but due to a family emergency of one of the performers it was changed to a variety show of singers, a comedian and juggler. Windjammer Bar had a great piano player – singer named Roger Hernandez. He played a lot of Billy Joel, Eagles and Elton John music. The Observation Bar had adult karaoke three nights. That was pretty interesting to watch. Dazzles Bar had a some really entertaining shows such as the Not So Newlywed Game, Who Wants to be a Bazillionaire, Comedy Night Live and The Weakest Link. That is also where DJ Aris played late at night for dancing. There were several choices of things to do on board everyday such as bingo games, art auctions, cooking demonstrations, horseracing, trivia games, wine testing, etc. Overall the entertainment on this ship was great. Ports of Call: Make sure you go to Rachel’s talks on the ports of call the first day at sea. They are very informative and she gives away free prizes for attending. Of course they try to get you to take the shore excursions offered by the ship, but she does cover some of the other options off the ship. George Town, Grand Cayman This was a nice place to visit. This was my third time here, but I had never toured the island so we took a 1 ½ hour taxi tour for $15 per person that stopped at the Turtle Farm, Hell and an outdoor market. The taxi driver was really friendly and told us the history of the island. There were also some shops at the pier for shopping. Roatan, Honduras This is a really poor area, but the people seemed really friendly. We paid $39 for transportation to the Salt and Pepper Club beach that included a meal and snorkel equipment. The snorkeling was nice, but you had to swim a long way to see anything pretty. The meal was a lobster tail, chicken leg, fish, vegetables and a piece of bread. There was no air conditioning anywhere and there were flies everywhere. We just couldn’t eat it. It really wasn’t worth what we paid for it, but the ride to the beach was interesting to see. There was a place right off the boat where the locals sold crafts and mahogany wood made items for really reasonable prices. Belize City, Belize We choose not to take any type of excursion on this stop. We just got off the ship and looked at the shops that were inside the fenced area. This did not look like a place we wanted to venture out on our own. There were several people we spoke to that took a cave tubing excursion that sounded really fun. It was really expensive to do. Cozumel, Mexico This was my second time here and it had changed a lot in the last few years. There are many shops selling everything from jewelry to leather. If you are looking for diamonds, emeralds, etc. just do your homework in the states before you leave so you can compare with an idea of the price. This is a fun place to visit. I heard the snorkeling was great here. Overall we enjoyed seeing all the ports of call, but I would not want to visit Belize or Roatan again. Overall this cruise was fun, but I had gone on a Princess cruise earlier this year and NCL just doesn’t compare.

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Aug 2, 2002

Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize, Cozumel

From Saturday, August 3 through Saturday, August 10, my wife and I took a NCL cruise on the Norwegian Sun. Unfortunately, our experience was not a very enjoyable one because of many reasons. On Sunday, my wife started with a migraine headache. She usually gets nauseous if the headache gets bad enough and sure enough, it did. However, the migraine was accompanied by severe nausea and diarrhea. This was above and beyond the normal migraine

problems. She was very sick for most of Sunday and that night. The next day, we were in Grand Cayman and fortunately; we did not have any trips planned because she was still recuperating and I started feeling sick. My symptoms were headache, and nausea. Wait a minute! I DO NOT GET SICK! Besides a normal cold every once in a while, I can’t remember the last time I was sick. It is well over 20 years since I had felt this poorly. My symptoms continued through the day that was spent sitting by the pool, not eating, drinking every once in a while and feeling miserable. That night, it really got bad. I was lying in bed, never went to dinner, my wife ordered room service, and I was practicing projectile vomiting in the bathroom. I was cold, then hot, and my headache was so bad I was putting ice compresses on my head. The next day I awoke to diarrhea and I promptly took two Imodium-D tablets that had to work because we were scheduled for a shore excursion. Both my wife and I spent Tuesday and Wednesday recuperating. We did not have an appetite, and spent Wednesday night in bed without going to dinner or any functions/entertainment on board the ship. However, we did talk to a lot of the other passengers and it seems we were not the only people that had been sick. You might disagree with me, but you should not get food poisoning on one of these ships. This was our fourth cruise. The first and the last cruise we took were with NCL. We have also sailed with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. Overall, we did not like the changes NCL has made to the cruising experience. First, we did not enjoy the freestyle dining. We like going to dinner at a set time, having the same waiter, bus boy, wine steward, and bar tender. If I want a before dinner drink waiting for me at the table, it was there. This isn’t possible with the freestyle cruising. Also, we did not like waiting for a table. We also prefer tipping depending on the service we receive. With freestyle, I believe the overall service was below the service you would receive if it were not freestyle. I did not think the specialty restaurants should charge an additional fee for dinner. The overall quality of the food suffered with the freestyle dining. I don’t know if this was done on purpose to get people to try the specialty restaurants but the quality just wasn’t present. The shore excursion to Roatan was dismal, to say the least. We went on the catamaran, snorkeling, and lunch excursion and were very dissatisfied. The snorkeling was good, but when we got back to shore, we discovered the beaches infested with sand fleas which did not hurt when they bit you, but left red marks all over your body. The picnic lunch was pretty sad. The taxi/bus ride to and from the catamaran was depressing. This stop should be taken off NCL’s list of places for the Western Caribbean. There were some positive things to mention about our cruise. The room upgrade to a Superior Inside Stateroom was very much appreciated. The room was at least three to four times larger than the one on our very first cruise. Disembarkation went very smoothly. It took us a minimum amount of time to get through customs, find our baggage, and transfer to the Miami airport to catch our flight at 1:40 PM. In fact, we had to wait about almost three hours. The overall appearance of the ship was very, very good. It was kept very clean along with our stateroom. The entertainment was also very good. I hope you can find more entertainment like Jane L. Powell. I’m sorry to relate such a bad experience while sailing with NCL. I am very sorry to say we will not be sailing with NCL in the future and we cannot recommend NCL to anyone.

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Jun 14, 2002

Miami-Grand Cayman-Roatan-Belize-Cozumel-Miami

We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the night before, as we had booked our own flight and got a really good price. We went to the Ft. Lauderdale airport at about 10:00 AM and found out that there is not really a desk to go to for the transfers to the port in Miami, but a couple of people with NCL signs and uniforms were walking around with a cart. They want you to gather at the baggage claim area at the opposite end from the Delta office. That is where they

have you wait. They normally check your name off of a list, but that morning they had a notebook with the listing of the passengers from the Norway for the next morning! What a way to start the day! Anyway, they just wrote our names down, 10:00 was a little too early to get to the airport as the bus doesn’t leave till after 11:00, but we were glad we had plenty of time to get situated. There is a big Ryder truck that will show up to take your luggage, so make sure you have your NCL tags and room number, if you know it, on the bags. We weren’t assigned a room number when we booked our cruise but since our luggage had Sun tags, they said it would get on the ship at least, and our baggage did show up at our room. Then we took NCL’s bus to Miami and all we had to worry about was your carry-on bags. Doing the paperwork before boarding the ship went quickly, once it was your turn, but we got there about 12:30-1:00, which was the busiest time. We had quite a wait, but did get on the ship by 2:00. The buffet was running until 3:00 so we still had a little time to eat. We had already decided that we wanted to book a Dive-In excursion and we thought it would sell out fast, so we went directly the Dive In Desk to sign up after boarding. The Dive In desk is different from the shore excursion desk and the Dive instructor has to talk to each person signing up for specific health reasons. We signed up for snorkeling shark ray alley in Belize. Then we quickly found our room, dropped off our carry on bags, and went to the buffet. It was a pretty good buffet, partly because we were hungry. First Day on the ship… After we ate, we went back to our room to relax a minute. I didn’t mention before when we first dropped off our bags, that I had called about 3 weeks prior to have the room decorated for my husband’s birthday. It was decorated really nice. Balloons taped to the ceiling, confetti all over the floor, a birthday banner, a birthday sign, a big chocolate birthday cake that was personalized and had real chocolate sculptures decorating it (a preview of the Chocoholics buffet), with a card on the table with a little sentiment that I had told them to write, plates, forks, napkins and a knife. It was real festive. We found a flier in the “Freestyle Daily” lying on our bed offering 50% off for dinner at East Meets West, one of the restaurants that have a cover charge of $10 per person. You needed to make reservations and eat between 5:30 and 6:30 for the discount. We went ahead and made reservations. It was shortly after that we had the mandatory lifeboat drill. We then went to the sail away party. It was pouring down rain so the party was held indoors in the Observation Lounge. The Cruise Director introduced himself and his staff. Some people did go out on the foredeck to watch the ship leave so we decided to join them and took some pictures. The rain had let up some so it wasn’t so bad. We didn’t stay there very long as we wanted to see if our bags had arrived before dinner. They did, so we put on casual dress clothes and went to dinner. As I said, we tried East Meets West due to the 50% off. Some of the food was not what I would normally eat but it was good if you like that type of food. My husband has more exotic tastes in food and he thought it was very good, especially the ahi tuna with caviar. The only drawback about the restaurant is that it is located on the sports deck and it was pretty distracting to have basketballs bouncing off the wall and windows while we were dining. The show that night was comedian Rondell Sheridan and he was excellent. Day at Sea: A definite must is the port consultant talk. Rachel is very informative about the islands. She covers two islands in the morning and two in the afternoon. Even if you booked excursions already, you should at least listen, in case you have time to shop. She goes through each island and gives tips about taxi prices, shopping, places to eat or drink, where to buy the best items and where to get taxis on your own. We only booked the one Dive-In excursion through the ship; so we greatly benefited from her advice plus, she gives away prizes! We went to both port talks that day and then just familiarized ourselves with the ship. The second night was formal night, so we got dressed up and went to the Seven Seas dining room. We chose to sit with others and were seated with another couple, who it turned out we had a lot in common with, and had a very enjoyable dinner. We had originally planned to go to the Captain’s gala, but enjoyed our dinner, and our companions, and spent about 2 hours in the dining room dining and conversing. We then had our picture taken in our formal attire by the ships photographers who were setup in several areas of the ship. The show that night was Encore! Mr. Producer and it was very good. We then went to the “Wild Bunch” New Years Dance Party in the Dazzles Disco. We had a great time. Then we went to the Chocoholic buffet at about 12:30; the line was very long and it was almost 1:00 before we got through it and just took our plates up to our room and nibbled a little before going to bed. Some of the chocolate was very good and although some was too rich, I’m a chocoholic and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity as I had been looking forward to it ever since I heard about it months ago. Georgetown, Grand Cayman: As I said before, we were going to do our own thing on three islands, from the research I had done before and after listening to Rachel, we had an idea of what we wanted to do. We had our first experience tendering and it wasn’t bad at all. The ship can anchor pretty close to the port in Georgetown and we didn’t have far to go. We were off of the ship on the first tender. NCL lets passengers who book shore excursions through the ship tender to the islands first, but there was room on that first tender and they let those of us in line with tender tickets fill up the boat so we were on the island by 9:00. The first thing we found was a man offering a taxi tour of the town of Hell, the turtle farm, past the governors mansion and 7 mile beach and return for $15 per person. The tour was approximately 1½ hours long. On our way to the turtle farm, the guide took us past 7-mile beach and told us about some of the islands history and demographics and pointed out various sights, he was very knowledgeable and answered all of our questions. He told us to tell the ticket salesperson that we were on a tour and gave his name and we got a discount on the admission. They had a pool with some sea turtles that were small enough that you could safely pick them up and take pictures with them, and across the road was an annex that contained the breeding and production pools; some of the breeding stock was huge! After that, we went to Hell and our guide gave us time to look around and shop in the gift shops, then on the way back he gave us the choice if we wanted off at the beach or at the town where we got on. We picked the town, as we had planned to snorkel at Eden Rock where other people from these reviews had recommended. When we got back to town, we came in the middle of a local ceremony saluting Britain’s Queen Elizabeth’s birthday. Grand Cayman is a British Island and Sunday was her birthday so Monday was the big celebration. We watched the ceremony, then because we had made quite a few purchases already and it was still before noon, we tendered back to the ship to drop off our purchases, returned to Georgetown and went snorkeling at Eden Rock, which was a short walk from the port. We had our own snorkeling gear, but they rent it for $10 at Eden Rock if you don’t have your own. The water temp was nice, but it’s really rocky as you try to get your fins on and enter the water. There were lots of fish, right there as soon as we got in. Snorkeling there was very enjoyable once we got past the rocks going in and coming out. We then went to the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. We like to go there whenever we can, because we collect HRC memorabilia and t-shirts. We still had a little more time to shop before the last tender went back to the boat. One thing Rachel stressed at her port talk on Grand Cayman was that if you buy any liquor; buy it before 1:30 pm so the store can send it to the dock to get it on the last tender. It has to be loaded directly on the ship because you cannot have it in your room. And it will be delivered to you before you disembark. By touring on our own, we did everything we had researched and planned for before and it all seemed to fit into place. That night the Jane L. Powell show was the entertainment. I’m sorry to say that we missed her show; which the reviews said was excellent. We were tired from our excursions and napped longer than we had planned. We ate a very late dinner at the Seven Seas dining room (one of the many benefits of NCL’s Freestyle Cruising) and then went to the Caribbean Night Deck Party by the pool. If you like to have fun, dance and do the limbo (or just watch) that would be the place to go. Had a few snacks at the midnight buffet and then called it a night. Roatan, Honduras We decided after listening to Rachel that we wanted to do a beach thing at Half Moon Bay that you can catch right at the dock. It is the Salt and Pepper Club. This is not one of NCL’s excursions, but Rachel did mention some alternatives to keep people safe. For $28 per person, you get round trip transportation, a lobster luncheon (delicious) and there’s a beautiful beach; complete with lounge-chairs, beach umbrellas, and a small bay to snorkel or swim in. There will be a guy standing at the dock with a sign that says Salt and Pepper Club, you can’t miss him and Rachel says he stays there quite a while waiting for passengers. He sent quite a few taxis (mini-vans) full of people and yet neither the cafe nor the beach was packed. They have a dive shop there to rent snorkeling gear or book diving excursions but we didn’t catch the price since we had our own gear. Prior to our cruise, I read one of the reviews that mentioned little children asking for dollars. It was kind of heartbreaking to see. But we hired a couple of them to be our “Sherpas” and they moved our beach chairs around for us for a couple of dollars, we also gave them a couple of our bottles of purified water which they were interested in. There seemed to be less fish than we saw snorkeling in Grand Cayman but the coral was so much prettier. You can usually go back to the ship whenever you are ready, but you might have to wait a little while to fill up a taxi. We got back a little early and decided to go into Coxen Hole, where the dock was, to do some shopping. Not our smartest move. Nothing really bad happened, except, instead of children, we had a grown man “appoint” himself as our native gift-shop guide and we had a little trouble getting rid of him! He even wanted my husband to trade sunglasses with him, which made us a little uneasy. The show in the evening was Cirque Pan (kind of a Cirque De Sole’ meets Peter Pan) and it was very good, the Peter Pan character was an impressive gymnast. Comedy Night Live was worth seeing too. If you enjoy 70’s music, then you must go to the Disco fever party. What a blast! Belize City, Belize This was the only excursion that we booked from NCL, so we were off of the ship fairly early. We chose the Shark Ray Alley snorkel with lunch in town. They also had an excursion that had lunch on the beach. Make sure you distinguish which one you prefer or you may be disappointed. The speedboat that took us to Shark Ray Alley came directly to the ship, which saved us time since we didn’t have to tender into Belize City first. We boarded a 30- passenger speedboat, with no canopy or restrooms, to take us on a one-hour journey to the reef. It was a pretty wet and bumpy trip. We got to the Marine Reserve right in the middle of nowhere and just jumped in from the boat. It was absolutely the most wonderful snorkeling I’ve ever done. Stingrays were swimming around and there were all kinds of pretty fish there to see. The reef was huge and so pretty. We snorkeled about 45-60 minutes (time flies when you’re being towed around by stingrays) got into the boat, and had another 10-15 minute trip to Ambergris Cay and the little beach town of San Pedro. What a cute little town; with sand streets and only a couple of streets at that we fell in love with it just like Madonna did. (The song she sings, “ I fell in love with San Pedro…”was about that little town in Belize.) Lunch was included in the price of the excursion and we ate at a beachside cafe and lounge called Fido’s, pronounced Fee-Doze. We ate a wonderful meal of stewed chicken, rice, fried plantains and fruit punch. After that we had about two hours to walk through the town and shop. There was a big difference both in the people and the land from Roatan. The children here did not ask for money or anything. I thought it was nicer than Honduras. After we finished touring and shopping we had another one-hour boat ride back to the ship. We were pretty tired and the trip back was a little rainy and bumpy so the sight of the ship was like seeing home again! That night was the President’s Dinner, and we decided to eat at the Four Seasons for the first time. I don’t think that I mentioned yet that both the Four Seasons and the Seven Seas served the same type of food each night, just prepared differently. Four Seasons was contemporary and Seven Seas was more traditional; each night before dinner we would check to see what looked better as the menus were posted outside of each restaurant. The Seven Seas usually prepared the meals the way we preferred, but on that particular night, the menus were the same, so it was our chance to try the Four Seasons. We really enjoyed the meal just like we had all the others. After eating, we went to watch Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and then went to that evenings show “The Power of Two.” The show got better towards the end but seemed to have a hard time keeping my attention. When that was over, we went to the 50’s & 60’s Sock Hop. We really enjoyed those late night parties in the Disco. Cozumel, Mexico As I said before, Rachel the port consultant, told us at her afternoon port talk a few days earlier that Cozumel was were you would want to do the majority of the shopping. We decided that after three beach days, that this would be an all shopping day. We docked here (the only place we didn’t have to tender). What a treat to be able to just walk off of the ship. We ate breakfast on shore at McDonalds and had Egg McMuffins ala Mexicana. (when in Rome…) I never had refried beans for breakfast! It was quite tasty though. We had maps, where we had jotted down notes about where the best deals were, and just went up and down the main street. We shopped until lunchtime and then we ate at Pancho’s Backyard. That was one of the good suggestions from Rachel. I think her exact words were “Guacamole to die for…” She was right! We shopped some more, took our purchases back to the ship, and then made the rounds one more time to make sure we remembered to get everything we wanted. We then went back to the ship for our dinner at the Seven Seas again. “Que Noche” was the show for the night and was very good again. The Liars Club was after that and was very comical. Then on to the Disco for Ladies 80’s night. Once again, we had a lot of fun. At Sea the last full day, I should tell you that every morning we ate breakfast at the Garden Cafe Buffet. We thought the meals were very nice, except that sometimes they had some strange ideas about what was considered breakfast and that the scrambled eggs were really bad. If must have eggs, they have a chef in the dining area making omelets or fried eggs to order. We had thought about going to the Trivia game that morning, but the Captain got on the intercom and said that there was a passenger on board that, due to a medical emergency, needed to be evacuated by helicopter. We stood on the upper deck and watched the Coast Guard helicopter try to land, but after several attempts they had to lower a basket and raise the passenger to them. It was very interesting and a comfort to know that extended medical care is only a helicopter ride away. We followed that with the fruit and vegetable carving demo. We ate lunch at the Great Outdoors Cafe and tried the grilled chicken, barbequed ribs, hamburgers, and hot dogs. The hamburgers were not very good at all, but the ribs and chicken were. An ice-carving demo was next, then followed by the poolside horse races. We wanted to get the most out of the day so we also went to the napkin-folding seminar, and a scavenger hunt followed that. I won’t tell you what you need to find, but clean out your closets and drawers at home and you might just bring the item that will make you the winners! After that, we went to our room to pack since nothing else looked interesting until after dinner, and that way, we wouldn’t be packing when all of the fun in the evening came. We ate again at the Seven Seas. We saw the Jane L. Powell show in the evening and what a show! It made us wish we had seen her the first night she performed. We went to the talent show after that and saw some sensational acts from fellow passengers. We ended the last night of our cruise with adult karaoke. We had made friends with some of the cruise director’s staff and so we had to tell them our goodbyes and then we went to get ready to put our luggage in the hall. We had until 3:00 AM, so we still had time to make sure everything was in the proper place. Hint: if you want some good pictures, take your camera out in the halls after midnight; you just might catch someone in their pajamas. We got transfers to Ft. Lauderdale Airport at the shore excursion desk earlier that day and picked up our corresponding luggage tags. Saturday, Miami (and the real world) We had to get off of the ship first, since we were to be bussed to Ft. Lauderdale, so the first group was to disembark at 7:15 AM. We had breakfast in the morning at the Garden Cafe buffet and then went to our room one last time to pick up our carry-on bags and down to the deck where the gangway was located and sat in the Disco, waiting for our call to disembark. We heard our color called and saw three of our friends from the cruise director’s staff one last time for goodbyes, swiped our key card for the last time and were off of the ship to retrieve our luggage. We breezed through customs fairly quickly and were directed over to where the bus to Ft. Lauderdale awaited us. We were then dropped off at the airport at the appropriate airlines for our flight home, again a very smooth transfer. IN SUMMARY: A wonderful trip and we would definitely sail NCL again. If you have never sailed that area before, we recommend attending the port excursion talks, take bug spray for Belize and Honduras(it costs $12.00 a can onboard), avoid the scrambled (fake) eggs and rubbery hamburgers from the buffet, the shows are all worth seeing (first-rate entertainment). The staff members we met were excellent. Paul Baya, our cruise director, and his department, was superb. We never had any rude wait staff, they all seemed happy to serve us. Our cabin steward and stewardess (Terrence and Merianne) were really thorough and pleasant to speak with. They took time our of their day to chat with us. Cruises can be very fun and exciting if you remember that you are on vacation and no matter what happens, it’s got to be better than work. Try to get the most out of it, it’s there just waiting for you to discover it. As a side note: Although this has no real bearing on our cruise and in no way reflects upon NCL or its staff, I thought that it was rude and crude of a member of a competing cruise line to be aboard the ship as a passenger, walking around throughout the ship, all cruise long, in uniform, and talking trash about EVERYTHING aboard the ship; the activities, the food and the entertainment. It really left a bad taste for Royal Caribbean, which is only removed by the fond memories of the wonderful cruise we had last year aboard Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas. Each cruise line has their good and bad points and appeal to a certain type of passenger, if you’re open minded enough, you can find them all appealing in their own ways. I would love to hear from people who are planning this cruise or those who have already been. I’m sorry this review got to be so long, but I had fun reliving it again. If you have any questions, comments or just want to talk about your cruise experience, you can email me at M_FHUERE@msn.com .

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Jun 14, 2002

Western Caribbean

A little about myself, this was my 9th cruise and my trip aboard the NCL-SUN was my 4th NCL trip. I am the type of person who is not easily impressed, I am highly critical and prior to any cruise I extensively research the ship, do my homework and even print out a detailed itinerary for members of my family and friends traveling with me. For this cruise there were 12 of us, ages ranged from 17-58 years. Since Freestyle cruising is a new concept and

I had read much about it, I was very apprehensive about booking with NCL. One of the big events during every cruise is dinner with all the family members and I was very concerned about not being able to either sit together, or even eat at a specific time; I could just imagine standing and waiting for a table. Well let me put all your misgiving to rest, everything worked out great, so read on. Boarding: Could not have been easier. I stood in the latitudes line for a few minutes and everything went well. NCL insists on a passport or birth certificate as a form of ID, no other forms of ID are acceptable, oh well! Within 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. Smooth and easy. Cabins: I always book the cheapest; I lucked out on this 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, and want to stay in your cabin, I would 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 about 180sq ft.; that is a good size. Another BIG thumbs up. Freestyle: 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 and regardless of the restaurants, I found the service 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 other places is no better, just a different atmosphere. Dining/Food: Since the numerous dining establishments is the 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. I rarely eat at BUFFETS for breakfast or lunch; for this cruise I broke my rule and ate once at the breakfast and lunch buffet. There was a variety of food at the buffet and it was plentiful, but the lines were long and the quality and presentation were definitely sub par to the dining rooms. So if you enjoy a good meal, eat at the dinning rooms for all three meals. To insure that my party always was seated together for dinner, arrangements were made with the maitre de. We were given a table and were asked to arrive at a certain time. The entire staff was accommodating and friendly. Note; Wine prices are high, however, they have an offer that is not widely publicized, if you buy four bottles, the fifth is free, so if you enjoy wine with dinner, this is a good deal. A solid 4 stars for the food. 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 de. We were given a table and were asked to arrive at a certain time. However, the same slow service was evident. Enough said! 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, as the food was not tasty, 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 are 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 there. It was decent, but why pay those prices when you can eat just as good for FREE. Entertainment: I will give the SUN 4 out of a possible 5 stars (I am a hard grader). 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 (hoola-hoop, twist, lip sync, etc.); and the Observation lounge had a live band and was also the location of the popular adult Karaoke. Speaking of the observation lounge, if you are a latitudes member and you mention that when you order a drink, you will receive a 10% discount, another nice saving. The nighttime shows at the Stardust lounge were very typical of most ships, but the variety and quality was 4 stars. Activities: Most daytime activities were ok, from the usual trivia to the Bingo (I always play bingo; I was a bit surprised at the high cost of playing and the low prize money given). The Casino was the norm, but what I liked was the space, the ease with which you could move around and lack of a feeling of crowds; everybody seemed to be having a good time. Teen activities: My son (17) did not participate. If there were any on board, I never heard about them. Very little publicity, and big only one thumbs up. Excursions: I never take the ship excursions as I find them too expensive. I did my own excursions, visited the same places as the ship’s excursions, and saved an average of $25-40 per person per excursion. Front desk/purser: I had to include this category since it is usually a hub of activity; in most ships you rarely get good service and the lines are always long. The SUN desk area was always fully staffed with knowledgeable and helpful staff. Any question was always answered properly, and I did not get the usual “I can find out” or “you need to..,” In addition I had a small billing issue; the clerk worked with me daily until it was resolved. All I can say is BRAVO NCL. Disembarkation: This has been a hassle on every cruise. All I can say is the other lines need to look at what is being done on the SUN. 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. It was the smoothest disembarkation ever. A huge 5 stars here. Overall: This is a wonderful ship and not to be missed. NCL has done its homework. 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. Everybody had a smile and was willing to help. Tipping at the end of the cruise is eliminated as each passenger is assessed a charge to their rooms bills. I found this to be a major improvement and a change for the better. All this talk regarding lack of service since tips are automatically charged to your room daily is rubbish. In addition, 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. Besides the minor negatives I mentioned in my review, there are a few other areas of concern: the on board drink prices are a bit steep; I saw numerous kids/teens running wild and in an uncontrolled manner through the late evening well past midnight; the kids even presented a problem in using the elevators; 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 publicized/ defined. Despite these few negatives, I think everybody needs to consider this ship; it was one of my best cruise experiences, and I would not hesitate to recommend this ship to anybody. Four thumbs up; NCL is finally doing it right. BRAVO! Happy sailing. wack001@smyrnacable.net July 2002

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Jun 14, 2002

Western Caribbean

Many people came early for embarkation, so we did have to stand in line, but the line moved well, and the processing was handled well. The embarkation staff was very friendly and efficient. The ship is arranged well, and there are restaurants and entertainment to suit a wide variety of tastes. We very much enjoyed the freestyle cruising concept. Since we had 3 children with us, the ability to dress casually was a plus.

After a long excursion, they simply wanted to grab a quick dinner in the Garden Cafe. The variety of food offered made this satisfying to all of us. The food was excellent everywhere we ate. We enjoyed the Garden cafe and the buffet line at the back of Deck 11. The made to order omelets and eggs were a treat each morning. The kids loved the ice cream bar each afternoon. We ate several dinners and breakfasts in the main dining rooms. The food and staff were great. We had 18 in our group. Our cruise was in celebration of my parents' 50th anniversary. At the anniversary dinner, our waiter asked if he could bring a cake, and the cake was accompanied by the wait staff singing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart." What a tough song to sing a capella. There was entertainment for all tastes, and our group had no problem finding appropriate entertainment each evening. Our group enjoyed Rondell Sheridan's comedy routine, Jane Powell's performance, the Song and Dance reviews, bingo, the scavenger hunt, the comedy night put on by Paul Baya and his cruise staff, the Country and Western night also put on by the cruise staff. Paul has a wonderful singing voice, and his staff is also talented. The personal favorite of my husband, myself, my brother, and our children was Dave Morgan in the Sports Bar. Dave is very talented and had a great repertoire of classic rock. We found all the staff on the ship to be very friendly and willing to do all they could to be sure you had a great vacation. We were amazed how many staff members went out of their way to remember our names. Our room stewardess was very attentive to our needs as well. Our room was always clean, and we always had plenty of towels for four people and extra pillows for all four of us. We went snorkeling and to Stingray City in Grand Cayman. This trip was excellent. In Roatan, we took a van tour of the island from a local person, and visited some of the gift shops. Others in our group went snorkeling on a private beach leased by Norwegian. They enjoyed the snorkeling, the beach area and the lunch provided to them. In Belize, we shopped in the stores along the pier, and were able to find good souvenirs at reasonable prices. Others in our group booked the cave tubing excursion and had a wonderful time. It rained during their excursion, but they enjoyed the caves very much. In Cozumel, we booked the Ocean View Explorer. The boat has glass panels for viewing fish along the shallow areas of the reef, and this trip was great as well. We were able to see many different types of fish. This was the first cruise for my immediate family of 5, and we look forward to taking another cruise on the Sun in the future.

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Jun 7, 2002

Western Caribbean

This was my our first cruise. I have a 13 and 15 yr old. We chose the Sun for the ports of call and for the freestyle dining. Here is a brief review of what we thought readers might want to know. Embarkation process was slightly confusing. We took a transfer (coach usa bus) from Jacksonville Beach, FL to Miami and once we got off the bus we were told to follow the scores of people who were waiting in line. Once inside the port, it was confusing

as there were several lines and not many employees to direct you or to ask questions to. Once onboard, our stateroom was 0122 category II on the 10th floor. Our room was very spacious for 4 people and there was a lot of closet/storage space along with a mini refrigerator. The ship provides the room with a blowdryer, however, I did not like ours and used mine (which you have to plug in on the desk not in the bathroom. I would suggest you take with you the following amenities: Bar of soap (only liquid soap/shampoo provided), night light (since we had no window it is very dark in rooms), an iron (as none is provided in room) bug spray (for shore excursions to Belize and Honduras), your own bottled water/soda (as you can put them in refrigerator in your room). There is a safe in the room that was very spacious. Every night an itinerary about ship activities, entertainment, etc were provided to you via a brochure that let you know the next day's agenda. It would have been nice to have that upfront for all days for planning/organization purposes. First I want to comment on the employees on board: The registration desk was very helpful and also carried sea-sickness pills at no cost. The wait staff at all the restaurants we ate at were very nice and very attentive. The room stewards we had were the same. You can buy coke bracelets for $16.00 a piece and it's good for the entire cruise as cokes cost approx $3.00 if you don't have bracelet. I heard AFTER the cruise they also had slushie bracelets as well (I wish I knew that b/c my teens drank those!) Now for the dining: We ate primarily at the Seven Seas and the Four Seasons. Both restaurants had the best selection of food (even our picky teenagers liked the food!) You could order more than one entree at a time and we did that several times during the cruise. The food was excellent!!! We also ate at the Outdoor Cafe for the buffet and had excellent ribs, pork and chicken that was always good and warm! We ate every morning at the Garden Cafe for the buffet breakfast -do not eat the eggs on the buffet as they tasted processed - instead there was 2 chef's preparing fresh omelets and eggs of your choice. We did try on the first night (only because they had a special for 1/2 price on cover charge) East Meets West and found the restaurant nearly empty and the food excellent. My son handpicked the lobster from a tank that is in the middle of the restaurant and had a picture taken with it and the waiter! Shore Excursions: GRAND CAYMAN: I had read on previous reviews to go to Capt. Marvin's instead of doing ship's excursion. Once we got off the tender, there is an information booth and I inquired as to where Capt Marvin's was as my family wanted to do an excursion. The lady there telephoned them to let them know we were coming and reserved spaces for us. The cost I believe for 3 1/2 hours was approx $40/pp- they took you to (2) reefs that were spectacular! We snorkel a lot and found that this was the best snorkeling we have ever encountered! The men on the boat we were on handfed fish and we had a close-up view of him feeding a moray eel! The last stop was to Stingray City were my husband and kids swam with the stingrays (I had no desire to swim the stingrays and instead took pictures!) that was a highlight for my husband and kids. The ship's excursion only takes you to Stingray City and not to other reefs- YOU MUST DO THE CAPT. MARVIN'S EXCURSION! ROATON/HONDURAS: We did the ship's excursion: West end Kayak/Snorkel -very expensive $88 pp and found it disappointing! It started on a 45 min trip on mostly unpaved roads on anold beatup bus w/ no a/c! 1/2 the group did snorkeling and the other half did kayaking. Our group went on the kayaks and it is on the open sea -you kayak for at least an hour 1/2 and it is very exhausting. We did go to a private beach where you could swim or rest. We then went back and did the snorkeling where we snorkeled from the beach and swam approx 1/4 mile out! Did not see any exotic fish just a couple small fish -it was very tiring and once we swam back to shore we ate at the Cannibal Cafe (which was included in price) the food was decent. There were a few shops to shop at. the place we snorkeled and kayaked at was very beautiful - remember -this is a poor country and many kids were begging for $ and I recommend doing some excursion thru the ship and not on your own. PLEASE USE BUG REPELLENT AS YOU WILL GET BIT AND NOT KNOW IT UNTIL THE NEXT DAY! The one bad thing that happened at this port was a gentlemen from our ship did a scuba diving excursion and died from internal bleeding! The ship's Captain told the whole ship about it once we were sailing. My prayers and thoughts are with his family. BELIZE: I read about the cave tubing and decided to do the ship's Cave tubing (price-approx $88pp including lunch) We had about a 45-50 minute bus trip on an air-conditioned coach bus (yeah)our guide Isrielle was good - he told us while we were riding about the country, the people, their source of living, etc.. very informative. Once there, you are supposed to put your belongings in a room that locks (our room did not lock)-so I recommend putting your $ in a zip-lock bag and put it in a Velcro pocket-the guide put our other nice camera in a water-proof bag he provided and carried for you. You get a tube and hike for approx 15 minutes (not uphill) and the landscape around you is beautiful! The water is ice cold and you are given a headlamp to wear as the caves are dark -we saw a lot of neat rock formations and my husband saw a couple bats (I didn't thank goodness) I highly recommend this excursion. I did see other vendors with signs when we got off the tender advertising the cave tubing if you wanted to go on your own. AGAIN, USE BUG REPELLENT! COZUMEL: You spend the most time in this port and you don't have to tender as the ship is docked at the port. We decided to do the ship's Sail, Snorkel & Beach party excursion for that morning so we could have the rest of the day to shop...the very large catamaran took you to an area where you anchor and the guides will feed the fish and we saw a lot of beautiful fish - the trip was approx 3 1/2 hours -you snorkeled first, then you are taken to a private beach where there is a volleyball net, restaurant, floating mats and kayaks to use...When you are on the catamaran you are given free drinks live music but no lunch. The bargain shopping was better here than any other port. All in all, this was an awesome cruise and I have already made reservations to come back during my kids spring break and I am going to go to the same ports again as there is so much more to do and see! I hope this review helps - God Bless! Janice

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By Bill_CR

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May 31, 2002

Western Caribbean

Western Caribbean This was our first cruise. We shopped around a bit, looked in Consumers Report online, and went to several review sites. We decided on the Norwegian line based on research. All-in-all, we had a good time and mostly enjoyed our cruising experience. My wife started looking for the next cruise the day we got home! SHIP – The Norwegian Sun is a relatively new ship and was nicely maintained. It has a beautiful

Atrium in the center of the ship, two pools, kids pool, several hot-tubs, several bars, library, chapel, exercise rooms and nine restaurants. The staff did a good job cleaning and maintaining the ship every day. The room steward was extremely nice, very attentive and did a great job supplying our room with ice, towels and service. EMBARKATION – We arrived about noon and had to wait to get in the door. Then we had to wait in a line inside to go up the escalators. Then we had to wait in a line to go through the metal detector. Then we had to wait in a line to sign in. Then we had to wait in a line to get on the escalator. Then we had to wait while they took photos. Next, we waited to get room keys. Then we had to wait to get on board. Total time was about TWO hours. One other review said she got on in ten minutes. They must have gotten there early. From my digital camera, we started at just before noon, we were inside at 12:38, got our keys at 1:35, and entered the atrium for the first photo at 2:08. THE EIGHTH DWARF – It has once been said Disney had added an eight Dwarf—GREEDY. This seems to describe the NCL’s philosophy. I thought we paid an all-inclusive fee to travel (hey, I said it was our first cruise!!). After we confirmed our trip, we were told about the gratuity fee. This is a way for them to tack an extra several hundred dollars to your trip. OK… you don’t have to tip at dinner, don’t have to tip the room service. It’s all automatically billed to your room at $10 per person per day. But the “hands-out” philosophy started when we dropped our bags at the curb. The bag porter abruptly told us “this is where you tip the bag handlers” when we asked if this was the place to leave our bags. Since it was outside the ship, I figured they didn’t work for the lines and if we ever hoped to see our bags again, I better slip him a few bucks. We get on board (more about the long lines and terrible wait below) and ordered a drink. SURPRISE! More tips are added to your bar tab. Then, there are the ever present cameras. Turns out they want $10 per photo. Take a day trip? They’ll add that on to your room as well. Most trips seemed excessively costly, ranging from about $40 to over $100 per day trip per person. More on the day trips below too. We had our anniversary dinner and they gave us a special card to give the waiter. We went to one of the restaurants that had a surcharge to eat. It wasn’t just a $10 surcharge as they told us in the advertising. The surcharge ran as much as $15 per plate. Surprise again! More gratuities added to the bill!! And the “extra special treat” turned out to be freezer burned cake and an emotionally draining version of Let Me Call You Sweetheart. The pool wait persons, all the waiters in each bar and waiters in each show venue were VERY eager to sell you a drink (with their extra gratuity added). But don’t just ask for water, tea or coffee! I asked on several occasions to see what they would do and never ONCE did someone return with a water at the pool, or a “free” drink in a bar. If you don’t pay, you don’t drink. PERIOD. I asked for a supposedly free coffee and was asked for my room card, a sign they want to charge. Turns out if you order your “free” coffee from a bar person, they charge you almost $2 to bring it to you. We found the beverages very expensive. A simple coke runs almost $2 (gratuity included), and most mixed drinks were in the $6 to $8 range. One guy at the talent show boasted of having 14 Pina Coladas! Must have been an independently wealthy kind of guy… Bottled water was pushed at $3 per bottle. See below for a tip on saving this charge. The ships potable water was just fine and free. They did not seem concerned about checking ID’s as they sold my 18 year-old son beer for the first three days with no question. As long as you could sign it to your room and give them a tip, they didn’t seem to mind. Same went for the casino. Never once was he asked his age, or to show an ID. As long as he was giving them money at a blackjack table, or at a slot machine, they were happy! Finally, what REALLY ticked me off was my daughter’s experience with the FREE SMOOTHIE! They advertised on the second day a smoothie tasting for free at the pool. It was to start at 10:30 AM. She went down and asked for a free taste. The pool waiter referred her to the bar. The bar tender didn’t speak English very well. He kept asking “what flavor smoothie you want?” and she kept asking for the free tasting. He finally made her a full-sized smoothie and then demanded her card. She was intimidated and gave it to him. He charged her almost $7 for the supposedly free drink (included a, you guessed it, big tip!). She was in tears when she came back to the room as we asked her not to charge any drinks without our permission. When we asked FOUR TIMES to have it adjusted off the bill, the staff just would not part with the extra $7 they made on abusing this child. We ended up taking it off the tip, which made me feel bad for the other good people who waited on us all week. FOOD/DINING – There were many restaurants to choose from. We ate breakfast in the Garden Café and the Great Outdoor Cafe on the aft deck. Stay away from the powered scrambled eggs! Otherwise, there were fresh cooked omelets, plenty of choices for fresh fruit, cereal, and even grits for those so inclined. We choose the East Meets West for our first big meal and were disappointed with what you got for the extra surcharge. We are ardent Teppanyaki restaurant goers and it just didn’t stack up to other places we’ve been. Coupled with the “surcharge”, tip, and anniversary cake, it made for a very poor start. Lunches for us were usually at the Great Outdoor Café. The BBQ days were wonderful! They had burgers, franks, sausages, and some pretty good ribs flavored on an open-flame grill on the aft deck. Usually, they had free ice cream at the ice cream parlor in the Garden Café. The wait lines are usually quite long for this. They will also sell you ice cream bars on the pool deck. There was a well-stocked dessert bar in the Garden Café at each lunch and dinner. For dinner, we ate once at East Meets West, twice at the Seven Seas and twice at the Four Seasons, once at Pacific Heights. With the exceptions noted above, these were all First Class meals with ample choice, great service, friendly staff and fine ambiance. We found them much an improvement to the “paid” restaurant. Seating was at our leisure and we were not made to wait over a few minutes at any time. It was also nice to choose when you wanted to dine, and to sit with who you wanted. Drinks were always limited to cranberry, orange juice (a bit watered down) at breakfast, coffee, tea, milk or water. They always did their duty and tried to sell you bottled water or mineral water with each formal meal. The decaf coffee at the end of the meals was VERY good. We didn’t find out until the last day there was a kids soda deal you could get. For $16, they can drink all the sodas they want all week. They did NOT advertise this at all. ROOMS – We spent the extra money and got the kids a separate room, and spent a bit more and got us a window room. Reading the other reviews, next time we’ll try for the balcony. There were none available when we booked. The rooms were ample size given you were on a ship. You could get four people in one room, but I would recommend spending the extra $100 per person for the children and getting them their own room. There were bureau drawers for your clothes and a hanging closet. The toilet area was small but useable. The room staff did a GREAT job and seemed to work 18 hours per day. They were the only ones who did not try to sell us something. EXCURSIONS – When in port, you could choose to stay on the ship and sun all day, or go ashore. They had several organized excursions, but due to the cost, we choose to explore on our own. In the Grand Caymans, we walked (in less than ten minutes) to a snorkeling area to the left of the dock and did our own snorkeling for about $10 per person. Taking the same trip from the ship, it would have cost $40+ per person. In Honduras (Roatan Bay Islands), we took a taxi and went to West Beach. It was BEAUTIFUL! The taxi cost $60 round trip for four of us. The ship wanted much more and we ended up being just a few feet from them. The only city I would recommend a tour is Belize. There is not a whole lot to see in town. We walked all over town and it is a very poor, unkempt town with little to see or do. I really should have gone for the Mayan tour, or something out of the city. Finally, in Cozumel, we took a taxi for $10 each way to a beach and snorkeled for $10 each. Total cost was about $50 and the water was great. Or, you can just shop. There is a large shopping area and it’s easy to find all kinds of bargains. For each trip, they give you the warning to stay hydrated while out in the sun (good idea) and conveniently have bottles of water you can charge to your room ($3 plus tip for a large Evian). You don’t find out until you hit shore that they tote five or six large containers full of water and have them available at the tender dock for free. You can even refill your bottles whenever you want. They make you sign a promissory note for towels as you leave, but no one every bothered to make sure we returned what we took. ENTERTAINMENT – There was a dance company, a show band that was pretty tight, Maryellen Hooper (a comedian we’ve seen several times on TV), an Italian guy named Ruddi and his Las Vegas Showgirl wife in an act called the Power of Two, a pool reggae band, a dance band in the Dazzles lounge which was quite nice, and a singer named Jane Powell. WOW! She is a very talented singer with a nice range. She sang a variety of styles. There were several other acts, but we did not have time to see them all. There was also an attempt to sing Karaoke. YIKES! Finally, the last night Talent Show had a few decent performances from the passengers. Plenty to do in the evenings! Also, the cruise director, Paul, was a hoot! His ship-wide announcements were humorous (will the person who lost a roll of hundred dollar bills please come to the front desk… we have your rubber band). He started his day taping a morning show before 6 AM and was always to be seen until midnight every night. PAUL: WHEN DO YOU SLEEP??? He was funny, talented, and cares very much about his job. THANKS PAUL!!! SUMMARY – Looking back on it, we learned a LOT about cruising from our first cruise. The price you pay the travel agent is NOT what you’ll pay. They charge you at every turn. But, it was a great ship, mostly good employees, lots to do, way too much to eat, and an overall great experience. RECOMMENDATIONS – Although it may fall of deaf ears, maybe someone from NCL will read this section. First, charge more up front if you have to, but don’t act so greedy. It’s beneath you. 2) Sell some sort of ‘drink’ package where you can get 14 or so adult drink tickets so you’re not hit up for drinks every time you sit down in a lounge. Let those who drink more than that continue to pay. For the casual drinker, do something so your staff isn’t hawking drinks the whole trip. 3) Advertise the kids soda package more. We would have gladly purchased two, but never knew about them. 4) Offer some sort of FREE organized shore activity, even if it’s just a BBQ in a park near the ship. They only off-ship activities you were interested in were the ones you wanted to sell. 5) Make it easier to dispute a charge. Don’t act like $7 will be your financial ruin. It leaves a VERY BAD TASTE and will not build a repeated client base which is so very important to your business. 6) I can buy a whole six pack of Coke at 7-11 for $1.99, which is about what you charge for ONE!! Either let guests bring their own, or charge a FAIR price. Thanks for listening. We will probably be back in the future…

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May 24, 2002

Exotic Western Caribbean

My husband and I just returned from our anniversary cruise on the Sun on 5/25. Let me start by saying that we had an absolutely FANTASTIC time!!!! We were celebrating our 16th anniversary, and we won't soon forget it. I'll post pictures later this week, just as soon as I get them back and figure out how to do it. To get the minor negative things out of the way first: 1. We each checked in one bag. Mine arrived around 2pm, my husband's around

5:15 after having it tracked down. We described the bag to our cabin stewardess who had it brought to our room. I started to panic a little as we were getting ready for our anniversary dinner, and all his clothes were in that one bag. A week later when we were packing to go home, we noticed the NCL tag was not on the bag, which I'm sure was the reason for the delay. ONE IMPORTANT NOTE: We each tied some brightly-colored ribbons on our bags which helped identify the bags, especially when they circle the carousel on disembarkation day. I highly recommend doing this. 2. Balcony chairs were a little small and weren't reclining as on the Grand Princess. No big deal, though. That's about it for the negative. Told you they were minor! Now for the good stuff. If I remember anything else, I'll add to this: EMBARKATION: This was a breeze! We rented a car and drove to Miami. We dropped the car off and got to the port around 11:45am. After checking in bags and going through security, we were on line to check in for only 10-15 minutes at the most and were on board around 12:15. I had ordered anniversary decorations consisting of champagne, a cake, streamers, balloons, a banner and confetti and was hoping the room would be set up by the time we got there. I was told by NCL prior to our trip that they'd do their best to have it ready for 1:00. When we walked into our cabin at 12:15, I was ecstatic to see that it had been decorated!!! What a nice start to what would be a fabulous trip!! THE SHIP: The decor of the ship was beautiful, especially the atrium. The public areas and restaurants were tastefully decorated as well. We really loved this ship!! STATEROOM: We had a balcony room on the Norway (10th) deck. Our cabin number was 0226, about mid ship. Great location, close to elevators and stairs. We've cruised once before with a balcony room also and will NEVER cruise without one!!!! We left our balcony door open every second we were in the room and even forgot to close it when we left :eek:. Each time we returned, we found it dutifully closed with the drapes closed at night, quickly to be opened yet again!! (This went on all week, by the way ;) .) The room had a small sofa alongside the bed, and we felt the layout was roomy. We had plenty of storage space and didn't use it all. I didn't even notice the storage to the left of the television until later in the week. The bathroom had 6 shelves above the sink, 3 on each side. The shower stall was round, and there was nothing to hit your elbows on (as was unfortunately the case on the Grand Princess last year :mad: ). We felt the design was well laid out. The shower pressure was excellent, except for port days between 5-6pm when everyone seemed to be using them. There is a hair dryer above the toilet, but I brought my own and never used theirs. Overall, very satisfied with the room. DINING: We totally love the freestyle concept and completely took advantage of it, all except for Il Adagio. There just wasn't enough time to try all of them! Le Bistro ($10 surcharge): We chose Le Bistro for our anniversary dinner on 5/25, but with all the other excellent meals we had, this turned out to be our least favorite by the end of the week. Not to say Le Bistro wasn't good, it was just that everything else exceeded our expectations!! They brought a cake for our anniversary and sang to us. This was a nice touch. I ordered the chocolate fondue, which we felt was nothing to rave about, but it was good, however. Ginza & Sushi Bar (A la carte): We weren't going to try the Teppanyaki, as we've had it many times before. We decided to give it a try after all and are so glad we did!!! On Sunday at 11am, we made a reservation for 12:00 sushi and 12:30 Teppanyaki for that same day. We wanted to sit at the sushi bar as we were "sushi virgins", other than the occasional California roll, which is the closest we've ever come to sushi. We absolutely LOVED the sushi, and this was one of the highlights of our week. We loved the sushi so much that we had it a second time later that week!! (I guess now you could say we're sushi whores! :eek: ) At 12:30, we proceeded to the Teppanyaki room (FYI, you can order sushi right from the Teppanyaki room if you prefer). We were surprised to be the only two there! We both ordered the Shinto (shrimp, monkfish, calamari and salmon), which came with vegetables and dipping sauce. We thoroughly enjoyed the Teppanyaki and both agreed it was the best we've ever had!!! Very scrumptious and satisfying. East Meets West ($10 surcharge): We started with the sea scallop, avocado & gazpacho appetizer—incredibly delicious!! We both had the tofu napoleon for our entrée, which we thoroughly enjoyed. For dessert, I had the tempura chocolate cake with caramel fudge sauce (as good as it sounds!!!), and hubby had raspberry sorbet. Another excellent meal!!! Pacific Heights (no charge): Despite some of the reviews you've no doubt read about this restaurant, we really enjoyed our meal here. My husband had the clam chowder and vegetarian lasagna, and I had the lentil soup and the pike perch. We also shared the pear, blue cheese and walnut salad with turkey. All were excellent! For dessert, I had the mocha pudding cake, which was a little dry but tasty nonetheless. My husband had the apple cider pie, which was very good. We had the most delightful waitress, Sheila, and her spunky assistant, Chi Chi. Both were very pleasant and cheerful. Nothing bad to say about this restaurant at all. A great experience! Las Ramblas (no charge): Here they served Spanish tapas, appetizer-size portions. For the most part, we really enjoyed this. There might have been one or two things that we didn't find that great, but everything else, i.e. Spinach pie, leek and potato croquettes, seafood ceviche, etc., were excellent. We went here 3 times during the week usually for late-night cravings after the shows. Our first time here was Sunday night after the large lunch at Ginza, and it was perfect for a light bite. Seven Seas dining room: We dined here two of the evenings. The first was on Monday, the Caribbean night. This had to be one of the best meals we've ever had!!! We ordered 2 different soups, both of which were very delicious. One was a chilled soup that I can't recall the name of, and I enjoyed it so much that our waiter, Mario, brought me a second bowl of it! Hubby ordered conch fritters with papaya dipping sauce. All I can say is that after trying it, I had to order my own. Probably the best fritters I've ever had, and the sauce was incredible!!!! I wish I had some now!! For our entrée, we ordered the Puerto Rican chicken dish, which was delicious! Can't remember what we had for dessert, but I remember that I loved it. The second night we dined at Seven Seas was the President's night. Enjoyed that as well. As far as dining times and reservations go, we had made reservations for Le Bistro, Ginza and East Meets West, but they were never full. We got seated right away for every single meal all week long!!! This was a pleasant surprise. Never ordered room service, so can't comment on this. ENTERTAINMENT: We enjoyed Roger Hernandez, the pianist at Windjammer's, and Twice as Nice at Dazzles, the night club. As far as the shows in the Stardust Lounge, we've seen every one of them. Our least favorite was Encore, Mr. Producer, which was still good, but we felt it paled in comparison to the rest. Our favorite by far was Jane Powell. She was AWESOME!! What a vocal range, and she is comical as well. Another favorite was Que Noche—a phenomenal performance, the dancers were incredible! The Jean Ryan production company is extremely talented and put on a great show each night we saw them. The Power of Two was a husband and wife team who put on a combination acrobatic/comedy show, which was very good. Some of the balancing they did with their bodies was mind boggling!! The last night at sea, Friday, we saw Cirque Pan, which was very good. All shows were wonderful to say the least. PORTS OF CALL: We loved the ports we visited and will elaborate on each: Grand Cayman: This was our first time here, and it was one of our favorite places ever visited, the main reason we booked a western itinerary. We had booked a 2-hr. Stingray City excursion with Capt. Marvin's from 11:15-1:15 in advance. We had until 10:50 to do what we wanted, so we took advantage and headed to Eden Rock, about a 3-4 minute walk from the tender. Snorkeling was fantastic!! The Capt. Marvin's tour was excellent. First stop was Coral Gardens. The water was a little rough, and the sky was overcast. Other than that, snorkeling was awesome. Stingray City is as good as we anticipated from all the reviews and suggestions. We had pictures taken with a stingray. Can't wait to get them developed!! Should have them tomorrow or Thursday latest. The stingrays are so gentle, they were so cool to pet and feed! It was an experience we'll never forget. Thanks to everyone for suggesting this tour!!! Also, we picked up some of their legendary Tortuga Rum Cakes (a six-pack and a large one, to be exact)—yummy!!! Thanks, Lrichters, for recommending it!!! We also got a couple of Touched by the Sun t-shirts, which turn colors in the sun. Awesome!! Roatan: After much debate, we decided to do the ship's tour to Tabyana Beach. Other than the downpour and the long bus ride, it was fun. We brought our own snorkeling equipment, so we just did the beach break and snorkeled on our own. It started clearing up shortly after we got there, so it turned out fine. Tabyana is a beautiful beach. The only other negative comments are the food and the large crowds of snorkelers. As far as the food, all I ate was barbecue chicken and carrots, which were pretty good; nothing else looked appealing. The salad of iceberg lettuce was brown and wilted, so I passed, although my husband had some. As far as snorkeling, due to the crowds and watching out for the coral (some were not mindful of the coral), I couldn't get to where I wanted to go. Some areas were so congested that we all seemed to bump into each other. That was pretty frustrating. Overall, we had a good time. Belize: This was without a doubt one of the most beautiful places we have ever been!! We did our own thing here. Had no plans for anything. Didn't care to do the cave tubing that everyone raved about, but I had wanted to take a water taxi to Caye Caulker, so that's what we did. It was tremendous!!! The water taxi ride was about 45 min. and cost $25 round trip for the two of us ($12.50 round trip per person). The scenery on the ride over was stunning, to say the least. The water was so calm, it looked like glass. And the color, wow, a gorgeous bluish-green! Plus the weather was beautiful that day, sunny and 80's. Can't ask for much more!! Once we arrived at Caye Caulker and exited the boat, we walked down a sandy road (all roads are sand there) to the other side, where we passed some restaurants and residences. Once we got to the water, we turned left and saw an abundance of restaurants, hotels and shops. We asked someone where to go for snorkeling, and he directed us down the road about a 5-7 minute walk to the split. There we snorkeled for about an hour. The water was so crystal clear and warm, and the reef was teaming with lots of colorful sea life. The drop off was a little scary though. As soon as we entered the water, it dropped to a depth of about 25-30 feet within seconds! I quickly adjusted and started enjoying myself immediately. We headed back to the water taxi and, on our way, stopped for lunch at The Sand Box. Unfortunately, the food came ½ hr. after we ordered it, and we almost missed our water taxi. We had about 5 minutes to wolf down a jerk chicken sandwich and some fritters. We were almost considering taking the 2:30 taxi back (2:30 Belize time, 3:30 ship time), but it would have cut it too close, so we kept to our scheduled 1:00 taxi. Not counting the water taxi ride each way, we had 2 hrs. and 15 minutes there. Caye Caulker was one of the highlights of our cruise!! We'd definitely go back there in a heartbeat!!!! Cozumel: We decided to do the Sail, Snorkel & Beach Break with the ship, and we are very glad we did! We went on a 65-ft. catamaran to Chankanaab Park for some magnificent snorkeling, then off to one of their beautiful beaches where we lounged for a few minutes in a hammock, went kayaking, floated around in the water on the foam pads they provide, and had time to play catch with the aerobie disc we brought with us (like a flat frisbee with a large hole in the middle). They gave us drinks on board as well, which was included in the price and consisted of beer and margaritas. All in all, an excellent excursion!!! Afterwards, I had wanted to go to Playa del Carmen, Xcaret, Playa del Sol, and/or one of the other beaches, but my husband wasn't up for it. So instead, our first stop after the excursion was the highly-acclaimed Carlos & Charlie's for margaritas and lunch (in that order! :D ), then back to the ship to shower and change, then we shopped for a tanzanite charm and went to Viva Mexicana (I believe that's the name) for more food and drinks. Although we didn't get to do everything I wanted to, we had a great time (except for when we tried to talk down the price of the tanzanite piece I was interested in, but the salesperson was very accommodating and worked out a deal for us—bargaining is not our thing, but it was a good experience anyway). Cozumel is a beautiful place that we would definitely visit again. OVERVIEW: All in all, our cruise was by far one of the best times we've ever had on any vacation!!! We really love the cruise life now, especially after having tried it twice and having a great experience both times. I had such a hard time the day we got back, I just wanted to be back on the ship in the worst way. If anyone wants further info, please reply to this post, and I'll do my best to answer them! HAPPY CRUISING!!!!

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May 10, 2002

Western Caribbean

I am a 31yo F who took my mother, we left the hubbys at home! This was our second cruise, our first being a 4 day Disney. Embarkation and debarkation were a breeze, we were able to stay on the ship until 10:00am and eat a leisurely breakfast and lounge by the pool until our tag color was called, at which time we strolled right off the boat with no waiting! We had an inside room and were glad we didn't spend more for anything else because

we were never in it! There was just too much going on and we didn't want to miss anything! There were only two outlets in the room and the one in the bathroom won't fit plugs that have 2 different sized prongs (which is practically every plug!) so take an extension cord. A night light is a good idea too if you don't like it pitch black! There is no ironing allowed in the rooms and no public laundry/ironing rooms so you are expected to pay your room steward for all your ironing. --so keep your travel iron hidden!!! The TV had very few channels, CNN and TNT via satellite, a couple of channels that ran a block of different movies each day, and a lot of shore excursion talks! The bathroom is small, and the shower is a little cubby hole! Just don't drop your razor or soap because you will never be able to pick them up unless you're a contortionist! There is also a little refrig and safe that you set the code-lock for in every room. The internet cafe was pricey, it's 3.95$ once to initially set up, then 75 cents a min. They had a couple offers for discounts, something like 50$ for 100 min, etc. but no unlimited use. Oh- its 3.95$ EACH to send an email through their email service, so make sure you set up an email address through hotmail, yahoo, etc. before you go. You can also use AOL IM-its a little slow but cheaper than calling from the ship at $5.95/min! The entertainment was truly excellent! The Jean-Ann Ryan troupe put on shows as good as or better than any I've seen anywhere and that includes Cirque du Soleil! There was a Broadway-type show, the wonderful Jane Powell- (who is a joy to see even if you don't like the songs she sings- she really is a great entertainer- don't miss her!) a comedian, and a Cirque-type show that was breath-taking! There was always something going on thanks to the hilarious Paul Baya, the cruise director. (the not-so newlywed game, guest talent show, 60's and 70's night, Caribbean dance party, Country Western party, etc, etc!) This man spoiled us so much we don't want to cruise again unless he is the director!!! He and his staff were involved in every activity, and made them so much fun. These people really seem to love their jobs and it shows! Paul was on stage in college and he is as talented as any of the performers! We chose this cruise for the itinerary and were thrilled! We did the stingray city thing in Grand Cayman, a little crowded for my taste but worth it if you've never done anything like this. I absolutely loved Roatan, good for Norwegian for coming here! It's not your usual "touristy" port and a lot of people were intimidated, its a very poor country but the people were very friendly and are grateful that the tourists are bringing money into their country. You get off the tender into a secured area that only a certain amount of taxi drivers/solicitors are allowed into. The government wants our business and the police really guard and keep the islanders away from the tourists. Most people were afraid to leave this "secured" area, but if you walk around the little town you will find the people there selling crafts very friendly, certainly not half as pushy as Mexico! We loved the fact that the reef is accessible from the shore, my mom laid on the beach while I snorkeled my butt off! This reef is the most beautiful I've seen- If you dive or snorkel, catch it now while it's pristine, in ten years I think it won't be half as nice as it is now. I saw a man actually sitting on the reef "taking a rest" he said, I almost passed out. In Belize we did the Lamanai/New River tour. I would not recommend this as it was a High-Speed boat ride down the river with 10 other boats, so all the animals and birds ran away before you could see them. Then we marched around in 98 degree weather looking at ruins. The tour description was misleading, the ruins did not "come out of the jungle", they were out in the open in the hot sun! A lot of people took the cave tubing excursion, they said that was great, but book early as it was sold out the second day of the cruise. (I did hear someone say the water and the caves were 65 degrees, so be prepared!) In Cozumel we took a cab to Chankanaab and then stopped at Dzul-ha to snorkel on the way back. Chankanaab was beautiful! pretty good snorkeling, a nice botanical garden, yummy food, just a wonderful place to spend the day. The ship docks right near town, great for shoppers! We also chose NCL for the freestyle dining. We like to dine alone and were thrilled we could do so whatever time we wanted with no wait! The food in the main restaurants was very good with decent service, but if you went to one of the specialty restaurants, you were really in for a treat. I am a meat and potatoes girl but always found something I liked, I had a hard time with the menus (What the heck is foie gras?!) but the waiters were very patient and always helped me find something I liked! The portions were small, but you could always order as many as you like. The buffets for breakfast and lunch had a nice variety, lots of fresh fruit too! The only beverages free at the buffets were coffee (horrible- very strong, even the decaf) assorted teas, orange juice and cranberry juice for breakfast, and coffee, teas, iced tea and cranberry juice for lunch/dinner. One thing that made me angry was how rude the photographers were when other people were trying to take pictures. On the Disney ship, there were always two photographers, one to take a professional pic and one to take a picture with YOUR camera. The NCL photographers would ask you, quite rudely, not to take a picture of your family member with, say, the pirate by the pool. Not everyone has the money to pay 10-20$a picture! Overall it was a wonderful cruise and we would definitely recommend.

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May 10, 2002

Western Caribbean

Everyone cruises differently. For us, it was up at 6 am, going to work out, do tours, see the shows, etc. We have to be out doing things. In fact, we try to do everything we can, and love it when others get involved as well. We also are both newly SCUBA certified (we got certified for this trip a week earlier), and took 3 dive trips on this cruise. We like good food, but are nowhere near gourmets. We don’t like giant productions being made

out of a meal. We aren’t big drinkers, so we won’t be able to tell you much about the bar service. We also did not venture into the casino, except to pick up an item for the scavenger hunt. If you want dive information, I will be including the dive review listed separately at the end of the review. We booked all of our own dive trips, and overall had a good experience. If you don’t want to read the whole review, here are the highlights: The Good: The activities, the room, the itinerary, the cruise critic group, the specialty restaurants, the cruise staff, the service in all the restaurants, the diving tours, the level of activity and participation from the passengers, the fresh fruit, freestyle meals, freestyle tipping, and finally the overall vacation. The So-So: The chocoholic buffet, the desserts, the entertainment overall, the lunches, the buffet food, the cabin steward service. The Bad: The coffee, the breakfast, the pool size, the bartender harassment, the length of time for a specialty meal, room service, and the bill problems at disembarkation. Bottom line: A few hassles, and not perfect, but overall our best cruise yet. Highly recommended! Want all the gory details? Read on, but remember that, as with any opinion, YMMV (your mileage may vary, and it probably will): ARRIVAL and EMBARAKTION We flew out of Philadelphia to Miami. We did not have transfers booked, but easily arranged them with the NCL representative standing right at the airport terminal exit. We landed about eleven am. We were at the port by noon and on the ship by one o’clock pm. The embarkation was very smooth. One note: The long line against the wall on the left that you first come to is the security line to board the ship, not to process paperwork. Those lines for the paperwork are on the right, and broken up into latitudes, US and non-US citizens. It is here that you establish your onboard account. Overall, it was a very smooth process. We took our pictures at the standard welcome aboard sign. There were also pictures being taken with two stripper-type girls in sequin captain’s jackets, NCL hats, and tights. Only the two guys took this photo :> I actually felt sorry for the girls that had to stand there and smile all day. It was kind of weird. As we walked onto the ship, we were met by a host and led to our cabin. I tipped him as he was leaving, and he looked surprised to see a tip. The Ship You’ve seen the pictures, so I won’t go into tremendous details describing the ship. It had a nice atrium, where all of the desks are located. It took a day or so to figure out where a few things were, as well as the fact that you had to go up or down around the middle of deck 5 (where the Four Seasons restaurant was located). The Stardust theater is located at the rear of the ship on deck six and seven. The theater was nice and new looking, but it did have a bunch of support columns that kept getting in our way. The ship did not have as much class as did the Royal Caribbean ship we were on (The Grandeur), nor was it as garish as a Las Vegas hotel. I’d say it was somewhere in the middle. The atrium itself has glass everyone, with big sweeping staircases. However, it also has busy loud rug that takes away from the atrium formal pictures. The room décor is very odd. The pool deck is quite plain. On the other hand, the restaurants are quite classy, and the rest of the ship looks nice enough. Again, not saying this is bad or good – just different. The upper decks 11 and 12 have all the activities. There is a good-sized aerobics room. The fitness center is open 24 hours. It had about 9 treadmills, 4 elliptical machines, and a bunch of bikes, as well as the standard weight machines. There was also a full basketball court. Well, it was a lot small than a regulation court, but it had two nice backboards and nets and was surrounded by nets on all sides and the roof. This was a popular place all week, and I was happily able to get into multiple games during our cruise. There was also a batting cage and two golf driving cages. The Pool Decks There were two pools on the main pool deck, separated by four hot tubs. We were wondering why one was always much less crowded than the other, until we realized that one was over 6 feet deep, while the other was about 4 feet deep. On days at sea, these were both crowded, and we felt were WAY too small to accommodate that many people. We did have some trouble getting deck chairs on the days at sea, but we eventually were able to find two open ones (I often had to carry one to put it next to the other, though). There were the usual saving of chairs, but between the pool area and the sun deck above it I think everyone was eventually able to find a place to lie out. The Room We upgraded ourselves to a category BB balcony room (room 9213 on the Fjord deck). It was our first balcony, and we loved it. The room itself is the largest by far of the three we’ve stayed in. It had six drawers, numerous shelves, and cubbyholes everywhere. Our three large suitcases easily fit under the bed. There was so much storage space, that we didn’t even use the hanging shoe pockets we had gotten from the dollar store to help store smaller items. There is also a refrigerator and a safe. The shower is your standard cruise shower. The head swiveled up and down on the pole enough to accommodate me (6’3) and my wife (5’3) without issue. The pressure was very good as well. You’re fine as long as you don’t mind taking a shower in a coffin ;> The rest of the bathroom had more of the cubbyholes everywhere, and was big enough for us. NOTE: The soaps and shampoo are all liquid, with liquid dispensers. This was very convenient, and certainly eliminates taking home cheap “souvenirs” like soap. However, some people may prefer a bar of soap, and should bring their own. Also, note that the hair dryer is attached to the bathroom wall with a short cord, and was not very powerful. My wife was glad she brought her own. The private balcony was wonderful. No one else was able to see it unless you craned your neck Apart from the ability to walk outside without leaving your room, immediately know the weather, and be able to sit quietly to watch the ocean, it also was helpful to dry out our wet clothing and scuba gear. Be sure to bring clothespins to hold the clothing onto the chairs. It can get windy. The bed is very soft, which is probably the only complaint I have. This was a great room. Warning: There is no clock (alarm or otherwise) in the room, but the automated wake up service works very well. The Itinerary At Sea – Two days that were pretty full of activities. My wife & I spent our time running up and down so we could do as much as possible (yes, this is vacation for us. You should see us when we go to Disney World. YMMV). Again, the activities were surprisingly well attended: Trivia contests, basketball shootouts, poolside games, aerobics classes, etc. You can find as much activity as you wish. These days were a lot of fun. We even went swimming for about 20 minutes on the first sea day. Hey, we were busy :> Grand Cayman – We booked our own diving at Eden Rock (see Diving Section, below). The tender is only a five-minute ride. Unfortunately, they use big tenders, so you can sit for 25 minutes waiting for them to fill up. It lets you off in the bandstand area. There is shopping right across the street. If you keep going to your left, you’ll find more stores, and of course more Tortuga Rum shops. After diving, we had about an hour to hit a few shops for my favorite Cayman activity: Rum Cake Sampling. Hey, if every store is going to display them, I feel obligated to try them out. I did buy a few cakes for the family. Note for Americans: Remember that the driving is on the other side of the road here. Be careful when crossing the street. One Note & Warning about buying alcohol: If you wish to buy liquor, you must purchase it by 1:00 pm (as we were rudely informed by each shopkeeper as we entered the stores). Apparently, the duty free rum is packed and sent right to the ship. We saw about 40 boxes ready to be loaded on when we were catching the tender. I wanted a bottle of 151 Tortuga rum, but it was too late to buy it from the duty free shop to be shipped to the boat. Apparently, they have “no stock” of the duty free alcohol. They just order it and send it to the ship from a warehouse. However, they have lots of “stock” of the non-duty free bottles in the local shop, which happens to be attached to the duty free shop. Bottles duty free were selling for about $8 – 10 US. I figured I’d pay a few bucks more and get a non-duty free bottle. I was surprised to see it selling for $33.00. No rum for me. Also, the ship pulled out at the scheduled time, but then stopped for about 20 min. We found out later that someone had missed the last tender, and was taking another boat. The ship stopped and waited. I was impressed that they would do that. Roatan: We booked our own diving at the Roatan Yacht Club (see Diving Section, below). Roatan is basically the opposite of Cayman. Stepping off from the short tender ride (5 minutes), we were in a gauntlet of folks selling, dancing, begging, and trying to get your attention. We immediately got a taxi. Well, we got a guy to take us to a taxi. The rates were fixed. The taxi driver was paid for round trip, and was not to collect money until he returned us (the incentive to come back and get us). I was surprised that the ancient Honda made it the destination (true fact – the gas gauge was broken, and read past empty from the moment we got in the car. I was hoping the driver had put enough gas in it). The diving was pretty nice, and the dive shop folks were great, but I can’t say too much for the areas we were driving through. Now, I think it was okay taking the taxi, but my wife did not feel safe. We found out the next day that two people that went off on their own were robbed of everything they had, including their room keys. That could happen anywhere, but I don’t know if I would go off on my own again here. Belize: No diving here. Instead, this was our Cruise Critic Cave Tubing Tour. The whole group booked a non-ship tour with a guide named Reggie. The trip was very interesting. I don’t think I would ever do it again, but it was neat and fun to do once. I’d recommend it if you can’t find anything else you are dying to do (note that the diving here required more experience than my wife and I had, which is why we skipped it). Reggie was very accommodating, and I would certainly recommend doing his tour over the ships tour, since his is longer and cheaper, but otherwise exactly the same. Belize requires a high-speed tender with about a 20 min ride to the shore. There is a very nice dock area, with a visitor’s area that has nice bathrooms, and lots of shops. The countryside did not look quite as nice, though. A few houses were nice, but many were huts and ramshackle shacks. The most amazing thing is all of the junked cars everywhere. Every house had a few. Many others were just left in the fields and the side of the road. They all looked burnt, gutted, smashed, or otherwise beat up. I’ve seen many folks asking about this trip, so I’m going into some better detail: We were met by Reggie, and broke up into three vans. We got the Red van, which had the "fast driver”. 80 mph was the standard speed on the countryside, and at times he buried the needle in the speedometer. However, we always felt safe, and there was no reckless driving at all. The van trip was about an hour. The first 45 minutes were on a paved highway. WARNING – the last 15 minutes is on an unpaved, dirt and gravel road. Very bumpy and very narrow. There are often cars and trucks that want to be pass or have to be passed. It becomes very interesting. Be warned. Once we arrived (a good ten minutes before the rest of the slow pokes), we found ourselves in a campsite type area. We were able to get changed and get our tubes and little flashlights. There were two, um, bathrooms here. I use the word very loosely, since they were literally two shacks made of wood. Inside, there are holes in the ground, wooden planks over the holes, and toilet seats bolted onto the planks. Very posh :> The walk on the tour was 45 minutes. I was disappointed with the walk. My wife and I really wanted to see some of the rainforest and wildlife. Well, this walk was more through a jungle path. I did see some bugs, and one lizard, and a few pineapples. It is probably a moderately stressful walk. If you are used to hiking, you’ll have no issues. However, there are a few steep hills during the walk. I’d like to tell you how great the guide was, but we were in the back of the 14-person line. So, we wound up talking to Abby and Darren instead of hearing anything the guide had to say. From what I was told, it wasn’t much. Perhaps if we had been in Reggie’s group we might have heard more. We all used bug spray, and as far as I know, no one got bitten. We also didn’t see many bugs, so I can’t tell you if we would have had a problem had we not used the spray. One more thing to note – wear Teva’s or old sneakers – several people wore water shoes (Aqua sox) and were very uncomfortable on the jungle walk. Eventually, we made it to the river. The guide helped us into the river, and we began our tube trip. For anyone that has tubed before, you will find this a little different. There is little to no current in most places, so you have a good deal of paddling to do. Or, if you are my wife, you get to sit in your tube while I paddle us both. :> The caves are pretty big. For the claustrophobics, I’d say the ceiling heights range in size from about 40 feet most of the time to one or two spots that came down to about 8 feet. The great majority of it was in very large cave areas. They were very dark, though. We saw a few bats flying, and others roosting, but none were anywhere close to us. There were about 5 or 6 spots that had very shallow water, requiring us to get out and carry the tubes. These usually lasted a few hundred feet. Most of the time was spent in the river. The tubing lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes. The water was fairly warm, but the last 15 min in the dark caves found us all getting pretty cold. We were happy to get back out in the sunlight. We tubed back to the campsite, and had a five-minute walk to get back to the vans. They were kept locked, and all of our belongings were safe. Reggie was unable to give us a group discount, saying his prices went up in the recent past. Instead, he included lunch at a restaurant about 20 min away from the tube site. Our van had a minor mutiny when we returned. We all wanted to go back to the ship. Since we had a consensus, we told the driver we wanted to skip lunch. He was very nice about it, but it took a while for him to speak with Reggie before he would go. Reggie came over to us and made sure we wanted to skip lunch, and made sure we had a good time. We assured him that both were correct, and we were on our way for the hour trip back to port. Judy told me later that lunch lasted about 45 min, and was “okay”. Seeing as how we had more food than we could possible handle on the ship, we were happy to head on back. Cozumel: We booked our own diving at the Emerald Dolphin Diving (see Diving Section, below). Cozumel was by far our favorite port. Reason number one: No tender !!! Very nice to walk out from the ship. Reason number two: the best diving. Reason number three: Carlos and Charlie’s. Reason number four: Large blue margaritas at Carlos and Charlie’s. The Sun was docked at Punta Langosta (Lobster Pier, so says my friend). It is new, and looks it. The slight down side to the dock: When you walk off, you have to go up and then down escalators. During this time, you conveniently pass a maze of upscale stores, and there is no way around it. It wasn’t bad, but it was a pretty slick tourist trap setup. Once down the escalator on the other side of the street, you are at the entrance to Senior Frog’s and Carlos and Charlie’s. More on C&C soon. We caught a taxi to the dive marina. Diving was awesome here. Afterwards, we went back to ship, took showers, grabbed a slice of pizza, and headed back out. This is why it was so convenient to dock instead of tendering. We walked down the street through all of the silver, diamond, and t-shirt places (there are really about four stores repeated ad nauseum). Shopkeepers in Cozumel take an “active” role trying to get you into their store. They all stand outside like pimps and try and peddle their wares (Hey Lady, come inside for best jewelry deal in town). We live near the Jersey Shore, and so are well prepared for this type of sales approach. We ignored it, but some folks may be put off by it. On the way back, we had 90 minutes to spend in C&Cs for drinks and dancing. This is a new building, moved from its old location a few blocks away. Drinks are not cheap - $10 and $13 for margaritas, but they are big, they are good, and they are strong. After much contemplation what flavor “blue” is, my wife tried one and really liked it. C&C is loud, brash, and a heck of a lot of fun. Luckily, the ship was very close, so it was an easy stagger back to the ship in time for dinner. We weren’t hungry by that time, but since when does hunger have anything to do with eating on a cruise? If you like any type of party atmosphere, definitely make a stop at Carlos & Charlie’s. The Restaurants and the Food: Rather than a day-by-day rendition, I’ll let you know where we ate and throw our some high and lowlights. Some restaurant basics: The Garden café and Great Outdoor café are the same buffet at the back of deck 11. The outdoor café is usually a lot emptier than the inside buffets, and had most of the same food. It was here that the omelet station, Indian food, and fruit station could usually be found. The lunch & breakfast buffets were here. We never ate here for dinner. The Four Seasons and The Seven Seas are the contemporary and traditional main restaurants, respectively. Both are on deck 5. The dinner meals were almost the same, with same variances of sauces or style of cooking, but the same general food (ie, one has standard prime rib, while the other has prime rib in an odd sauce). One of these restaurants was also open each day for sit down breakfast and lunch, but they switched off. The Four Seasons is right off the atrium, and thus usually a little more crowded. The Seven Seas is at the back of the ship, and we thought it had a nicer view. Otherwise, they are very similar. Pacific Heights served buffet Pizza for lunch, and sometimes held the lunch pasta station as well. For dinner, it became the “light” meal. It required reservations, but there is no additional cost. The other places were all extra cost. Le Bistro and Il Adagio were $10 pp. East Meets West and the Teppanyaki grill were a la carte. We did not eat at the a la carte dinners, but did eat at Le Bistro and Adagio. Breakfast: We ate at both the buffet and sit-down breakfasts. The sit-downs were better, but did not open until 7:30 am. We were usually leaving for our excursions by then. The buffet opened at 7:00 am. At both places, the pancakes were dry and the French toast was cold. On the other hand, the omelets were good in both places. The buffet had a very nice omelet station. The juices were not impressive in either place. I do not drink coffee, but my wife says that the coffee was awful, especially at the breakfast buffet. It always tasted burnt. Overall, breakfast was passable, nothing more. One note –I love fresh fruit. The first two days, there was a huge bowl of berries at breakfast (blue, black, and raspberry). These disappeared after this, and were replaced by melon. The berries were excellent. Keep an eye out. Lunch: We are never big for lunches on the cruise, since we are usually off doing things, and just can’t eat that much food. Thus, we never made it to the sit-down lunches. The buffet lunch was average buffet food, although there was also a carving station. Some food was decent, and some wasn’t. The next room over had a few sternos of different Indian food sitting in an isolated area. It was odd, since there wasn’t anything to make people notice it. The pasta station, which floated between the Garden café and Pacific Heights, was pretty good, but was not made to order. Each day, they had a different kind of pasta. Most days, we wound up grabbing a few slices of pizza. Living in Philadelphia, we have a lot of good pizza shops around to compare. This pizza wasn’t great, but it was pretty good. It made for an excellent light and quick lunch. They had three flavors: plain, pepperoni, and green pepper/mushroom. Pizza was usually very popular. There was often a line, but we never had to wait too long. One highlight of the buffet: Some days they had cookies out for dessert, and these were very good. Dinner: The reason folks go on a cruise :> First off, the food was pretty good overall. We were a little unhappy with the main meal one or two nights, but there are enough appetizers and extras (and desserts) to make up for it. The extra charge specialty restaurants are definitely a higher class of food. Also, with the price of the cruise, I had absolutely no problems paying an extra $50 for the two of us to eat two meals at the alternatives. And really, the food was still pretty good at all the dinners. The Four Seasons and the Seven Seas were the same in quality. Both ranged from pretty good to excellent. Some highlights of the week: most of the beef meals (prime rib, Caribbean night steak), and the tiger prawns. In case anyone is wondering, we skipped the following meals to go to the alternative dinners: Italian night (went to the Italian restaurant), President’s dinner (basic food – steak & mashed potatoes), and the final Chef’s Dinner (Pacific Heights). A warning note on the specialty restaurants: Part of the experience of the “extra fine” meal is to draw it out. Each of the two alternative meals lasted more than two and a quarter hours. The service was still very good. There was just much more time between courses. Now for some folks, this is great. For antsy people like us that just want to eat and do other things, the meals just took too long. The food was better, and we recommend these dinners highly, but be prepared for the time delay. We missed a few minor shows because of these meals. Here are the alternative restaurants we attended: Il Adagio: Italian, and our favorite restaurant on the Sun. It is located right behind the Four Seasons on deck five, but there is a staircase entrance on deck six right past the atrium. Adagio is set up with all tables having a window view. The four person tables are curved couches facing a large picture window. It was a gorgeous view. The highlights of our meal were: The shrimp scampi, the soups, the pasta (my wife asked to have it accompanied by a grilled chicken breast, which they did without complaint). The desserts were also excellent, including the hazelnut cake, which somehow was too rich for my chocolate fanatical wife. I had the “layered biscuit” dessert, which sounded boring, but was actually different kinds of strong rum creams, and was very good. Le Bistro: The French restaurant. I tried Escargot for the first and last time (I always try to have weird things on a cruise). Getting past the fact that these were snails, I found that they tasted like little slimy chunks of butter, swimming in butter sauce, with a butter topping, and some butter added on for good measure. Note that I don’t really like butter :> Again, YMMV. Also, they offered a “Steak Diane” sirloin strip. This was good, but not as nice a cut of meat as the filet mignon. We suggest getting the filet, which was much tastier. The menu also offered a “Firestar” for $18 (in addition to the cover charge, I presume). It is a little roasting flame in the middle of your table, and they put various kinds of meat on it. We didn’t try it, and didn’t see anyone else trying it either, but it did look interesting Highlights: The filet mignon (excellent), the mushroom soup in a bread bowl, and the chocolate fondue (did you think my wife would let me get away without mentioning this?) Pacific Heights: We heard rave reviews about the light restaurants. We thought it was okay. We had the meatloaf and the calzone. The food was decent, and we didn’t really know it was “light” per se. It just wasn’t up to the hype we’ve heard. We thought the desserts were very bland. Luckily, by this point we had eaten more than enough dessert over the week. Note #1: The meal was served at normal speed, not the two-hour meal. Note #2: It is a very casual atmosphere. Note #3: Eat here near the end of week, if you are at all health-conscious. PH prints all the nutritional values for their meals. After you read the calorie and fat contents on these meals, which are about average, you will start to wonder what the hell you’ve been ingesting while eating multiple meals and sampling all the desserts all week. Do yourself a favor and just don’t read the nutritional labels. That way, you won’t feel bad. Chocoholic buffet: This was the only midnight buffet, unless you count snacks and a roasted pig out by the pool deck on Caribbean night. The buffet was okay. Like I said before, most of Norwegian’s desserts are the same thing in different shapes. The cakes are almost all the same. Basically, they have light cake with different colored filling and icing, and they have dark cake with different colored filling and icing. The chocolate buffet looked incredible, but most of the food tasted the same. It was okay, but nothing was nearly as good as it looked. They did have a nice variety, including fondue, cheesecake, choc covered strawberries, ice cream, éclairs, and lots of cakes. Note: the fondue and ice cream sundae bar were at the end – skip most of the cakes and save room for these! My favorite, not being a chocolate fanatic, were the gummi bears served as a sundae topping :> Two exceptions are the chocolate pecan torte served with dinner the first night, and the chocolate cake at Il Adagio, which were given high ratings by the chocolate lovers (ie, the girls) in our group. Fresh Fruit: There was a fruit station in the buffet for breakfast and lunch. It was very popular, and the fruit was usually pretty good. The server has a giant plastic bin filled with fruit, and sometimes has things that he wasn’t putting out. I asked for a mango almost every day (the Caribbean is the only place where I can get a great mango). He had it on two of the days. Feel free to ask. The cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon and pineapple were everyday standards, and ranged from decent to excellent. ROOM Service: We ordered the breakfast once (twice, really). The door-hanging menu (placed on the door by 4 am to have breakfast in your room) gives the basic choices of Danish, cereal, yogurt and fruit. We had read on these boards that we could request other things (such as cooked to order eggs) to be delivered for breakfast. On our first excursion day, we wrote in a couple of omelets, and some other requests. We were delivered ONLY the things on the preprinted sheet, and not a lot of them either. We tried ordering room service breakfast one other time. We opened the door in the morning to find the breakfast request still hanging on our door (it was on there by 11 pm the night before). So, don’t rely on the room service breakfast. We found ourselves running up to the breakfast buffet every day. Our friends had the exact same experience with the breakfast service (no made to order items for them either). They also ordered regular room service once or twice. They said it took twice as long as posted (supposedly 30 – 45 min) to get a few grilled cheese sandwiches mid day. Without too much experience with it, I can say that the room service was not good for our group. The Bars: Like I said, we are not big drinkers. Our ship bar bill for the week was $8.00. The drinks are pretty expensive, but the one my wife got was decent. The only real issue we had with the drink service was the CONSTANT pushing of drinks. Sit by the pool, and not four minutes go by without being asked if you want a drink. By now, everyone knows about the “Welcome Aboard” drink scam. I knew about it, and it *still* looked like they were handing out free drinks (“Here is your welcome aboard drink, sir”). Caribbean night was the worst. It was literally every minute, without fail, that a plate of pineapple and coconut drinks was waved in your face. That part got very annoying. On the plus side, the bartenders at the pool had water filled spray bottles, and would give you a refreshing spray as they walked by, whether you were a drink buyer or not. Plus, if you wanted a drink, I can guarantee that you got great service. The Service: The room steward was pretty good. We rarely saw him, and he usually did his job. He did keep forgetting an extra towel that was requested. We kept leaving notes. Eventually, he left the post-it note up in the bathroom to remind himself, and he did not forget again. Overall, we have no complaints with the cabin service, although it is now our third cruise without a towel animal. The restaurant service was excellent. We had a few servers that were better than others, but almost everyone looked like they were trying to please you. It probably wasn’t as good as our “traditional” dining servers on past cruises, but it was still very good. They were happy to bring extra meals, make changes to the menu, and check for extras (like mangos at breakfast – they didn’t have any, but the waitress brought me a kiwi instead). Even at breakfast on the last day, we had pretty good service, although you could tell it was the last day. In general, the servers acted like they really wanted to please us. The Cruise Staff: We thought the staff was excellent. The cruise director, Paul Baya, was everywhere. I’d go into more detail, but I think every cruise director is cloned from the same personality. Seriously, he did a great job. Additionally, the assistant cruise staff was great as well. Monie, Pedro, and Rodica all helped to make the activities a lot more fun. I also want to make note of Julia and Lara from the aerobics center. They worked us hard, and we appreciated the quality instruction. They were great instructors. One memorable entertainment moment for us on the cruise: We were doing the Broadway trivia with Ramona. We were broken up into groups of four. About halfway through, one rather aged gentlemen asked how many people were supposed to be in a group. When answered four, he proceeded to complain and grump about another group that had nine people answering questions. He was bitching about a trivia game on a vacation !! We all found this pretty funny, as did Ramona. Our running joke the rest of the week dealt with how many people were allowed in each group. The bottom line is that some people are just looking for things to complain about. The Entertainment: We thought the entertainment was decent, with some hits, some misses, and one night skipped. We come prepared for the shows realizing that we aren’t on Broadway. Here is a breakdown of the shows: Encore, Mr. Producer: Decent. Some folks had good voices. A few were not very good. We didn’t like the song choices very much. The show was entertaining though, and worth an hour of your time. Que Noche – A long week of diving, plus an evening at Carlos and Charlie’s led us to be too tired to make it to this show. Cirque Pan – One of the misses. We’ve seen a few Cirque du Soleil shows, and really like them. As our friend Lisa stated, this show was more like interpretive dance than Cirque. I’ve read Peter Pan, and this show still wasn’t making sense to me. There was much odd dancing, and little acrobatics. We left halfway through. Jane Powell – This woman has an utterly amazing voice, an unbelievable vocal range, and a very funny stage presence. We did not care for the style of music she sings, but still liked the show. Surprisingly, we enjoyed her performance during the farewell show more than her main show. Go see her on both nights. The Comedian – Forgot his name. He was okay. ‘Nuff said. The Magician (Neil Sayres, I think): The other show that we left early from. We were just not impressed. I’m not sure if it was his level of ability, or the angle we were sitting at, but I was able to see almost all of his “moves”. I’d watch as he flourished a silk handkerchief, made a few waves of his hand, and then reached under his cape to “magically” produce a tall glass. After 15 minutes of that, I had to go. The “Other” entertainment: This was better than the shows, for us. We liked Paul Baya, the cruise director. His Millionaire show was very good. The newlywed game was funny, as always. The Caribbean pool deck party was probably hilarious for all those men not dressed up as women and performing on stage. As I was one of the men so dressed, I’d have to say that I couldn’t judge how funny it was, but I imagine other folks were laughing pretty hard. Overall, we thought the entertainment was pretty good, and about average for the cruises we’ve been on. The Photographers: They are everywhere snapping pictures. We would get them taken whenever we could, since it costs nothing to look. On formal night, there are about five different formal portrait areas, all with different backdrops. The photographers are very good. The pictures came out very nice, but they are very expensive. They cost $10 for small ones, $15 for midsize, and $30 for a sheet of large formals, which included an 8x10 and 2 5x7s. I think they offer some “deal” that the sheets are $25 each if you get five of them. Be prepared to spend money if you want a lot of pictures. Disembarking: NCL didn’t require the suitcases to be outside your room until three am the last day. Also, it was nice to be able to stay in our room until our time slot was called. Once called, it was a quick exit for us. Customs was not an issue, and we quickly got our luggage and got onto the airport bus. Here, we had to wait until all were on the bus. At this point we wished we had taken a cab, since we could have gotten moving immediately. It wasn’t a big deal, thou