I like to think I’m not a jealous or petty person, but the story behind why I booked this sailing on the Norwegian Sun might lead you to believe otherwise and also that I’m not very self-aware. Here’s the story:
Because my husband’s job offers less flexibility, my 9-year-old son and I often cruise together without him. So this year Mr. Cruise decided to plan a special father/son cruise. And after they were booked, my in-laws, who would be visiting us for a month in Seattle during that time, decided to join them. So I watched from my living room as my family sailed away…without me. It wasn’t a pretty sight, as documented here on Instagram:
So after polishing off a pizza, a four pack of apple fritters, a pint of ice cream, and a dozen iced sugar cookies, I did the only thing a gal can really do in a situation like that – I booked myself on the exact same ship and itinerary for two weeks later, loudly uttering some unkind words, not fit for this PG rated, family friendly blog as I did it: Take that M***** F*****s! Better add “vengeful” to my list of characteristics.
So that’s how I ended up cruising solo on the Norwegian Sun. But I don’t think it has anything to do with my impending divorce (kidding, kidding). In any case, here are the things I loved and didn’t love about the Norwegian Sun, followed by some tips for those lucky enough to be booked on her. But first, a ship tour (do me a solid and subscribe to my scrappy little YouTube channel when you’re finished watching):
NCL Sun Ship Tour
Things I Loved about the Norwegian Sun
I’ve divided the things I loved on the Sun into three categories: design features, activities/entertainment, and food. I saved food for last, otherwise you wouldn’t read the rest, having logged onto DoorDash to see if they deliver cruise food (yes, for a small delivery fee of $300,000 + tip).
Design Features I Loved on the Norwegian Sun
Size of the Norwegian Sun
At this point in my review (and especially for those who regularly follow my blog) you’re probably thinking: “Wow, she’s a lot to handle.” But you love me anyway because I supply you with an endless supply of cruise food pics. That’s kind of how I feel about the giant NCL mega ships: I love them anyway because they supply me with an endless amount of cruise food, but they can be a lot to handle.
I’m one of a dying breed of cruiser who actually prefers smaller ships, which is one thing I loved about the Sun! At 78,000 gross tons (including roughly 1 ton of sugar and 3 tons of cheese) and with a capacity of around 2,000 passengers and 900 crew members, I found her to be the perfect size.
Hull Art on the Norwegian Sun
True confession: I once forgot my government issued photo I.D. at a port stop and required a security escort back on my Princess ship. Embarrassing. But even more embarrassing? I had them escort me back to the wrong ship: “Ma’am you’re on the other Princess ship.” Because a seawitch is a seawitch is a seawitch. But thankfully, the vibrant, distinct hull art on NCL will never lead you astray (but be warned, if you’re late for sail away, it will taunt you for approximately 4 hours and 100 nautical miles as you sit crying at the end of the pier watching it journey on without you). I especially love the hull art on the Norwegian Sun, depicting a stylized…sun…in shades of yellow, orange, and red. It’s particularly unique in that it extends all the way up the side of the ship.
Huge Cabins on the Norwegian Sun
Another unique feature of this older ship, one long extinct in newer, flashier models, is the size of her cabins. They are huge! My inside cabin featured a desk, loads of storage, and full-sized sofa, something almost unheard of in an inside. You could live on a cruise ship for less than what you’d pay for a studio apartment of this size in my home city of Seattle (true story and a daily temptation – if my kid would just go off to college already!).
Spinnaker Lounge on the Norwegian Sun
While not nearly as impressive as on the larger NCL ships (I’ll admit there are some advantages to the large, newer ships), the Spinnaker Observation Lounge on the Sun was still a great spot to relax, sip a cocktail, read, listen to music, and gaze out at the ocean. Or fall asleep and get nudged awake by security after a complaint of “nuisance noise.”
Library on the Norwegian Sun
As many of you already know, my parents met and fell in love working at a library. So I suppose you could say libraries are in my blood. I supposed you could also blame them for my existence. *shrug*
In any case, I love ships that have a real bona fide library and the one on the Sun, while not huge, was warm and lovely and had a great selection of books for loan.
Promenade Deck on the Norwegian Sun
But if I had to choose one must-have ship feature, it would be this:
A wide, wraparound outdoor promenade deck. And the one on the Sun was among the best I’ve ever experienced. It was so wide, it allowed for both walking and jogging without doubling as a carnival ride (specifically, bumper cars). I would book this ship again (and did, stay tuned) just for the promenade deck!
Large Aerobics Studio and Spin Bikes on the Norwegian Sun
Moving from my favorite feature of a cruise ship to my least favorite thing in cruising and life…exercise. But when you cruise as often as I do and eat as often as I do (and in quantities that threaten to wipe out any revenue on my sailings), it’s a necessity. So I appreciate a large, well equipped gym with good hours (the gym officially opened at 6am on the Sun, but was always open by at least 5:30am). And I *really* appreciate a ship with spin bikes (as that’s the form of exercise I hate the least).
On the Sun, I especially loved the HUGE aerobics studio with spin bikes on one end (that remained there – they didn’t get pushed against a wall or tied up when not in use) and an open area on the other end with small weights, yoga matts, and other items available. While the bikes are generally reserved for those who pay for a class, I was able to use them early in the morning (5am – I did ask permission first and was told it was fine at that hour).
Activities/Entertainment I Loved on the Norwegian Sun
Moving on to activities and entertainment…
Production Shows on the Norwegian Sun
While I missed the full Broadway shows offered on the larger NCL ships, I enjoyed the two production shows featured on my sailing: Rock You Tonight and World Beat. I thought the set design, costumes, and choreography were all excellent and the cast was energetic and talented.
However, the entertainment provided by this particular audience member knocked “Kinky Boots” from the top spot on my list of “best entertainment at sea:”
Live Music on the Norwegian Sun
There was plentiful live music offered throughout the ship both during the day and at night. I especially loved this jazz band:
New Wines Around the World Loyalty Benefit on the Norwegian Sun
I was lucky enough to be on one of the first ships to offer the new Wines Around the World loyalty benefit for those Platinum and above. And I loved it!
You can read my full review HERE:
Food I Loved on the Norwegian Sun
Let’s move on to…FOOD!
Dining Room Breakfast on the Norwegian Sun
Breakfast in the Seven Seas main dining room was never crowded:
And the food was fresh and delicious:
Here’s the menu:
Norwegian Sun Breakfast Menu
Buffet Cinnamon Rolls on the Norwegian Sun
But you’ll definitely want to hit the buffet for a second breakfast, especially on the days it offers cinnamon rolls:
These are offered every third day with pecan rolls and apple cinnamon rolls on the other two days (which are also good, but the regular cinnamon rolls are the best).
Buffet Desserts on the Norwegian Sun
Speaking of buffet offerings that will send you into a sugar coma faster than main lining cotton candy, there was always a delicious cobbler of some sort (eat this with vanilla ice cream on top) and a rotating “feature” dessert at dinner. One night it was brittle, one night it was eclairs, one night it was blondies…
…and one night the Captain’s grandmother had to step in for an ill chef (I mean, I can only assume) and this happened…
Crepes on the Norwegian Sun
There were a few additional buffet desserts that deserve their own heading. First, crepes! These were made-to-order at dinner with a variety of fillings available. Due to my love of chocolate, lack of creativity, and general belief that fruit doesn’t belong in dessert (see video above), I went with Nutella and cream every night.
Hard Ice Cream on the Norwegian Sun
And hard ice cream. Chocolate, vanilla, one rotating flavor, and a handful of toppings were offered. My favorites were coconut and pistachio.
Cagney’s Steakhouse on the Norwegian Sun
You may find it odd that a vegetarian would dine by herself at a steakhouse. And I’ll admit, it’s a bit of an unexpected choice until one understands that the primary reason I chose to dine there was for the free bottle of wine (served all at once in the giant-est wine glass I’ve ever seen) provided as a Platinum perk and an entire loaf of garlic rosemary bread with butter to soak up said bottle of wine. That alone was worth the price of admission (free – again as a loyalty perk).
HOWEVER, I met with the assistant manager of Cagney’s on embarkation day and he arranged to have the chef prepare me a special vegetarian meal: French onion soup (made with vegetable broth), a wedge salad, and a vegetable pasta. While it was all delicious, I sacrificed half the pasta in anticipation of the (even giant-er) chocolate cake (which is the best cake I’ve ever had on a cruise and, by far, my favorite dessert at Cagney’s).
Here’s the menu for the non-vegetarian steakhouse patrons among us:
Cagney’s Menu on the NCL Sun
La Cucina on the Norwegian Sun
After the equivalent of approximately 6 years at sea on NCL ships, somehow this was the first time I’d dined at La Cucina (you can read my review of Onda, the other Italian specialty restaurant on NCL HERE). And I loved it! There were quite a few vegetarian options to choose from, but I went with the Burrata “Caprese,” Gnocchi Di Patate Al Pesto (which I pronounced three different ways, all clearly wrong, before my waiter figured out what the heck I was asking for), and the Panna Cotta alla Vaniglia. Everything was as caloric (looks like another awful date with the spin bike at 5am) as it was delicious!
Here’s the menu:
La Cucina Menu on the NCL Sun
Things I Didn’t Love about the Norwegian Sun
Wasted Space on the Norwegian Sun
Unlike the newer ships that seem to jam an amusement park ride into every available nook and cranny – “This looks like the perfect spot for a Mad Tea Party ride. I mean everyone’s feeling a bit queasy anyway.” – there was a lot of open (dare I say wasted) space on the Sun. Especially on decks 12 and 13 forward (both pictured above). I can do without the rides, but a nice adults only space would have been lovely.
Lack of Comfortable Outdoor Seating on the Norwegian Sun
It’s not uncommon on my cruises for me to locate a comfortable padded clamshell on an outside deck with a water view on embarkation day and stay there, leaving only briefly 5-6 times a day to pee and get food, until debarkation. I give new meaning to “chair hog.” I’ve also become very resentful of my small bladder and inconvenient female parts, as elusive orcas always seem to appear as soon as I get up to hit the bathroom: “OMG, the entire pod just breeched at once in a choreographed synchronized swim.” “Damnit!”
However, on the Norwegian Sun there was NO comfortable, unique, outdoor seating. Just milk toast loungers, some with bars that dug into your back (I started to think it was intentional to lure people to the spa for an expensive treatment).
No Naturalist, Lectures, or Movies on the Norwegian Sun
Some of my favorite cruise activities were missing on my sailing. There was no naturalist, no lectures given by experts in various fields, and no indoor or outdoor movies.
Buffet Layout on the Norwegian Sun
First, watch this brief 12 second video…
If that video, filmed at 6am, before the crowds arrived, felt super awkward, imagine how this space is in real life at peak dining hours. In order to get to the main food area, you first have to walk through a super narrow corridor where the self-serve drinks are located. They should really station a crew member there with a mop and a “Caution: Wet Floor!” sign at the ready to handle all the collisions, most of which involve beverages. You also might want to add “personal injury lawyer” to your packing list as some of those beverages are HOT.
While I found the food at the buffet quite good, the layout was awful. Consider working as a chef at Original Beef (any other fans of “The Bear” on FX?) for a few months prior to your cruise to prepare for the chaos.
Hidden Soft Serve Machine on the Norwegian Sun
Basically the whole point of cruising is unlimited self-served soft serve (try saying that five times fast). Am I right? But it seems shaming culture is alive and well on the Norwegian Sun where the soft serve machine is hidden behind a counter and requires a crew member serve you. Never on any other ship on any line have I ever uttered the words (dozens of times, I might add): “Just keep swirling until it’s about to tip over – with a height equivalent of a women’s size 6 shoe.” At a certain point I just hopped the counter like I was trying to steal a subway fare: “See, like this!”
Tips for the Norwegian Sun
Here are a few tips for those booked on the Sun…
Eat Lunch in the Seven Seas Dining Room on Embarkation Day
Hit the Seven Seas main dining room on deck 5 aft on embarkation day to avoid the buffet crowds and enjoy a relaxed and delicious full-service lunch. I especially love the tomato soup and the desserts. You can find the menu HERE.
Find Pizza and Noodles in Moderno at Lunch
For all the 9-year-olds in your life or 9-year-olds at heart (“Ma’am we don’t allow 44-year-olds at Splash Academy. I don’t care how well you moisturize your skin and avoid the sun, you simply don’t pass for 5-12.”), hit Moderno at lunch for pizza and noodles. There’s also overflow seating in there (and in the Sports Bar) if the buffet gets crowded.
Watch Sail Away from the Promenade Deck, Aft
For gorgeous sail away views away from any crowds, hit the outside promenade deck (deck 6) and head aft. Wake views + sail away views = heaven. Even if you hate math (I used to teach statistics – go ahead, break my heart), that’s an equation you can love!
Visit the Cruise Next Desk for your Loyalty Benefits
Visit the Cruise Next desk on deck 6 forward to find out about your Latitudes loyalty benefits and to sign up for any special events available for your tier level. The ship tour still wasn’t available on my sailing, but the other events were.
Be sure to attend the Latitude’s party for those Silver and above in the Spinnaker Lounge (ours took place on our second sea day at 5pm) for unlimited free drinks and an introduction to the ship’s officers:
Take a Dip in the Secret Hot Tub on the Norwegian Sun
I saved this tip for only my most loyal readers, those who suffered through this review to the bitter end (I didn’t even include it in my video tour, it’s so top secret). There’s a secret hot tub located on deck 12 forward on the starboard side of the ship next to the small kiddie pool. I wondered why no one ever joined me in there until breakfast on the last morning when I was telling a friend I’d made on the ship about it and he said, “Oh, I know all about that. It’s just that I kept seeing you go in there after your third trip around the buffet and worried about where the bubbles were coming from.” Seriously though, this hot tub offers great views and no one was EVER in there except for me.
Between our two cruises, everyone in my family has now sailed on the Norwegian Sun EXCEPT for my mom. And I simply can’t let an injustice like that stand. So I’ve booked the two of us on the October 6th sailing to celebrate her birthday. Be sure to follow us live on Instagram and stay tuned to learn if she’ll be brave enough to join me in the hot tub! And with that…
Homework (10 points): Check out my other recent NCL-related posts…
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