Fodor’s Expert Review
Best For People Who Want
Lots of activities; nine restaurants; glitzy Broadway-style musicals; casual dress policy with open seating dining; sports bar with videotaped and live ESPN broadcasts; terrific programs and facilities for kids and teens.Read More
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Spacious cabins; not to have a lot of kids around; not to have to hear endless PA announcements.
Located on Atlantic Deck, with wonderful sea views through picture windows, main restaurants the Four Seasons and the Seven Seas open from 5:30 p.m. to midnight, with tables available until 10:00 p.m . The 24-hour buffet-style Garden Cafe/Great Outdoor Cafe on Pool Deck is for the more casual diner. Specialty restaurants at which no surcharge is applied include the Ginza (Japanese, featuring both teppanyaki and sushi), East Meets West (Californian, Hawaiian and Asian), Pacific Heights (light dining) and Las Ramblas (Spanish, with a mediocre tapas bar, Mexican beer, and Latin entertainment).
Reservations and a $10 charge are required at Il Adagio and Le Bistro. The elegant narrow Il Adagio has booths for two or four along a wall so that everyone has an ocean view. Le Bistro features table-side cooking, though not of everything.
Forward on the Pool Deck, the Body Waves fitness center has one room filled with up-to-date equipment and a view, and another for aerobics classes. The equipment feels sort of crammed in, and there’s enough room in the free weight area for only one bulked-up worker-out. The Steiner Body Waves Spa includes massage and steam rooms and full service beauty salon. Treatment prices may at first seem exorbitant, but there are always specials, especially on port days. Two pools and four hot tubs on the Pool Deck are sheltered from the elements. One deck up on Sports Deck, kiddies will find a children’s splash pool while Mom and Pop enjoy the hot tub located forward, the full-size basketball/volleyball court, a golf driving net, batting cage, shuffleboard, and a jogging track.
Those who prefer to have everyone dressed up at the same time, or who are likely to be discombobulated by others’ slovenliness, should think twice before booking this ship. Passengers can wear pretty much what they please at night, provided they don’t want to wear T-shirts and bathing suits.
One of the smaller but full free-style Norwegian ships – great for quick getaways and family cruises.
That sharp mass intake of breath you heard in 2001 may well have been inspired by Norwegian Sun’s debuting with no fewer than nine restaurants, the first ship purpose built for Free-style cruising. Or maybe it was that the ship shared a glitzy dual premier ceremony in Miami with Norwegian Star; the first time a cruise line ever launched two new-builds simultaneously.
Norwegian Sun’s interior is stunningly beautiful most of the time. Indeed, on entering her circular marble lobby, you’ll feel your eyes going immediately to the winding stairs in the center that lead up the atrium, with its glass-enclosed elevators. Intimate sitting areas with floor-to-ceiling glass walls on two levels let you comfortably contemplate the world outside.
As is par for the NCL course, the Norwegian Sun feels spacious throughout, which isn’t to deny that its public rooms can feel quite intimate when the whim takes them. No fewer than a dozen bars and lounges offer a variety of themes and decor. In the Sports Bar, CNN and taped sports events play all day. Sip a cappuccino while you check your email in the Internet Cafe, self-administer retail therapy in the large gift shop, or try to summon Lady Luck in the Sun Club Casino. There are lots of daily activities, including the inevitable bingo, aerobics classes, dance lessons, fashion shows, and makeover demonstrations. At night, there’s dancing, cabaret, or pianists in three lounges, and high-kicking Broadway-style production shows in the two-deck Stardust Lounge.
The fitness-obsessed will want to avail themselves of the basketball court, the well-equipped gym, or aerobics classes. Parents can entrust their progeny to the ships’ Kids’ Counselors, who’ll keep a close eye on them as they enjoy the Kids’ Corner and disco, the video arcade or kids’ pool.
Norwegian Sun is a well-lit, sparkling ship with lots of light and bright colors lending it a sense of carefree, lightness of being. You can feel the warmth of the sun as you walk near her expansive windows, and rooms seem to blend into one another rather putting contrasting themes together. Most of the woods are light maple with muted colors in the fabrics.
The nine dining venues offer a wide variety of cuisine from around the world; be forewarned that the sheer variety of the menu will entice the weak-willed to overindulge. One of the two main dining rooms, Seven Seas, aft, serves “contemporary” cuisine, while Four Seasons, amidships, serves “traditional” cuisine. Which is to say that Seas would probably grill your lobster where Four Seasons would steam it and serve it with drawn butter. Both restaurants’ lamb and filet mignon are especially good, the desserts to die for. The sushi bar in the Ginza restaurant is the equal of most you’d find ashore. The French cuisine in the reservations-only Le Bistro is on a par with the desserts in the main dining room.
The staff, recruited from all over the globe, is generally attentive and pleasant.
NCL automatically adds a fixed service charge of $10 to the shipboard accounts of passengers over 13 to make service personnel feel appreciated; children between three and 12 are charged $5. Those under three get off scot-free.
While further tipping is not compulsory, NCL recommends a 15 percent gratuity for bar service and urges the beneficiaries of concierge or butler services to come up with a little something extra. All else is at the passenger’s discretion.
The Sun’s resident theatrical troupe, the venerable Jean Ann Ryan dance company, offers two spectacular staged Broadway-style musicals in the Stardust Lounge, the front of whose balcony you should avoid unless you want to watch the show through a railing.
When Norwegian Sun’s original design was adapted for Freestyle Cruising, cabins were enlarged and more storage space was added. 67 percent have an ocean view, 432 in all. Insides range from 147 to 191 sq. ft. and ocean view from 145 to 170 sq. ft. All but a few outside cabins on Viking, Fjord, and Norway decks have balconies measuring 150 to 173 sq. ft. plus a 48 sq. ft. balcony.
The four suite categories start with mini-suites of 267 sq. ft., and range up to the three-room Owner’s Suite, 829 sq. ft., complete with private hot tub on the balcony. Suite guests enjoy the ministrations of a dedicated concierge and hot breakfast options, including eggs, bacon, sausage and oatmeal. Moreover, they can order lunch and dinner off of the main dining room menus during dining times.
Each pleasantly decorated cabin has a small sitting area, TV/radio, telephone, modem connection, refrigerator, safe, and individual thermostat. A daily movie program is available on the TV, plus CNN and another satellite channel. The surprisingly spacious standard balcony is covered with a bright blue filigreed rubber mat. There’s a small table and two attractive, very uncomfortable cafe-style chairs.
The pre-molded bathrooms in standard guestrooms are clinical-looking, but very functional, though nobody looks very good in bright fluorescent light.
NCL prides itself on its parent-and-kids activities, a great children’s program and even group babysitting until very late. Located forward on Deck 7, the Kid’s Corner is a series of three rooms with age-appropriate activities in each. Fretful or doting parents can watch their little darlings through portholes.
A sister-ship to Norwegian Sky, but not a twin, Norwegian Sun—one of the first real Freestyle cruising ships built for Norwegian Cruise Line—entered service in 2001 with an additional deck, more accommodations with private balconies, and more specialty restaurants. Interiors are bright and cheerful although the decor is somewhat subdued when compared with fleetmates.
Norwegian Cruise Line hadn’t introduced many new ships in awhile at the time Norwegian Sky was launched and Norwegian Sun was on the drawing board, but it didn’t take long before they got the hang of it. With Freestyle cruising growing in popularity, the vessels moved into the forefront of the fleet with multiple restaurant choices, expansive casino, trendy spas, and more family- and kid-friendly facilities.
Rich wood tones and fabric colors prevail throughout. The Observation Lounge is a subdued spot for afternoon tea in a light, tropical setting with nothing to distract attention from the expansive views beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows.
The Internet café is large, and the nearby coffee bar is a delight. Sunshine pours into the atrium through an overhead skylight by day; at night it’s the ship’s glamorous hub of activity.
Norwegian Cruise Line set sail in 1966 with an entirely new concept—regularly scheduled Caribbean cruises from the then-obscure port of Miami. Good food and friendly service combined with value fares established the line as a winner for active adults and families. Innovative and forward-looking, Norwegian has been a cruise-industry leader for decades, and its fleet is as much at home worldwide as in the Caribbean. Several of the line’s ships cruise Alaska’s Inside Passage, including one of its newest, Norwegian Bliss.
Noted for top-quality entertainment, Norwegian combines action and high-energy activities as well as a variety of dining options in a casual, free-flowing atmosphere. Norwegian’s freestyle cruising signaled an end to rigid dining schedules and dress codes. Norwegian ships now offer a host of flexible dining options that allow passengers to eat in the main dining rooms or any of a number of à la carte and specialty restaurants at any time and with whom they please. The ships’ accommodations include some of the largest suites at sea, studio cabins for solo travelers, and a private ship-within-a-ship complex called The Haven, a more luxurious area with personalized service.
From a distance, most cruise ships look so similar that it’s often difficult to tell them apart, but Norwegian’s largest, modern ships stand out with their distinctive use of hull art. Each new ship is distinguished by murals extending from bow to midship.
- 11 passenger decks
- 4 specialty restaurants, 2 dining rooms, buffet, ice cream parlor, pizzeria
- Wi-Fi, safe, refrigerator (some), DVD (some)
- 2 pools, children’s pool
- fitness classes, gym, hot tubs, sauna, spa, steam room
- 8 bars, casino, dance club, library, showroom, video game room
- children’s programs
- dry-cleaning, laundry service
- Internet terminal
- no-smoking cabins
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
What to expect on board
Staterooms & Cabins
Staterooms are a bit more generous in size than on the previous vessels in the Norwegian fleet and contain adequate closet and drawer space for a one-week cruise. More than two-thirds have an ocean view, and nearly two-thirds of those have a private balcony. All have a sitting area with sofa, chair, and table. Clever use of primary colors and strategically placed mirrors achieves an open feeling. Connecting staterooms are available in several categories, including those with balconies. Oddly sandwiched in between decks 6 and 7 forward is deck 6A, which has no direct elevator access.
Suites have walk-in closets as well as whirlpool tubs and entertainment centers. Butlers and a concierge are at the service of suite occupants.
Light-wood cabinetry, mirrored accents, a small refrigerator, a tea/coffeemaker, a personal safe, broadband Internet connections, duvets on beds, a wall-mounted hair dryer over the dressing table, and bathrobes for use during the cruise are typical standard amenities. Bathrooms have shampoo and bath gel in shower-mounted dispensers, as well as limited storage.
Sixteen cabins are wheelchair accessible.
Food & Drink
Two complimentary dining rooms serve open seating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Specialty restaurants on both ships that carry varying cover charges and require reservations include Norwegian’s signature French restaurant Le Bistro, steak houses, and Italian eateries; Norwegian Sun also has an extra-charge Japanese restaurant, sushi bar, and teppanyaki room, Brazilian steak house, bakery, and a complimentary tapas bar. Screens located throughout the ship illustrate the status (full to empty) and waiting time you can expect for each restaurant. Casual choices are the Lido buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; the poolside grill for lunch; a pizzeria; and an ice cream bar. A coffee bar serves specialty coffees and pastries priced by item. Room service is available 24 hours with an extra charge per order except for continental breakfast and coffee.
You’ll find a nice selection of bars and lounges where musicians or DJs provide dance tunes; the entertainment staff hosts Norwegian’s signature late-night parties after performances by the production company; other nights, comedians or other entertainers perform in the main theater. Each ship has a top-deck lounge ideal for an intimate nightcap (Norwegian Sky) or complimentary tapas (Norwegian Sun).
Spa & Fitness
Although the facilities aren’t as extensive as on newer ships, Mandara Spa offers a lengthy menu of massages, body wraps, and facials. A Medi-Spa physician is on hand to create individualized therapies. Each ship has saunas and steam rooms that are available to all at no extra charge.