I mentioned that there didn't seem to be an overabundance of things to do while at sea, esp compared to the way RCI packs their itinerary. There was one side-effect of this I hadnt considered and now may suspect they are mutually exclusive goals. I try to get at least 1 drink at every bar onboard a cruise ship. Sort of a bucket-list you might say. On a lot of cruises I will see a nice pretty lounge and a bar but it was vacated and no staff to serve drinks. Unless there is a special event or cruise director driven activity in the lounge, its effectively shut down. Since there was not much in the way of activity on this cruise, I noticed that most of these lounges were operational and were 20% populated by various groups. It did have a library-voice sort of feel though, which didnt help with the low-energy vibe being put out.
Their onboard app was excellent except for the two days it kept reporting ship time 8hrs prior to actual ship time. This messed up the activity list and what was open when trying to find things to do.
4 out of 5
The staff were very efficient in both getting guests aboard as well as making available the cabins and release of luggage. When it was time to let guests go to their cabins, the first did the odd number decks and then after a time, released the even number decks. This was highly efficient and prevented an overcrowding rush on the elevators.
Food and Dining
3 out of 5
Compared to Carnival, their lunch offerings were fairly underwhelming. Sometimes the burgers were undercooked and they were always bland with very few options to top. The hot dogs were all beef and good but overall selection was lacking. However, their dinner portions in the MDR were much better than the elf-sized portions of some other cruise lines.
The specialty dining was excellent in both service and quality, but then again you're paying even more than you already have in order to receive this service. I would expect no less.
We had taken the perk for the Ultimate Drink Package on this free open bar cruise in order to have available higher class wines, gourmet coffee's, and bottled water. I regret this decision as it was a complete bait-and-switch. We were denied any specialty coffees based on their 'everything but starbucks' loophole. Well EVERYTHING that isnt the swill in the buffet is, in fact, starbucks. This means that it was a advertized perk that did not exist. For the first two days the bar staff claimed they had no bottled water to give out. And since I am primarily a wine drinker they only had ONE alternative cabernet on their menu (Simi), which day after day they had excuses after excuses as to why they didnt have it. Their 'house' or 'open bar' variety was Livingston. I am surprised they got this in 750ml bottles since it is usually sold by the jug at stores. Compared to Royal Caribbean, who constantly lets you pick between Claus Du Boi, Kendall-Jackson, and a few other higher end bottles, this was a real letdown. If you are a tequila or hard spirits drinker, this did not seem to be an issue as they had a lot of variety of premium spirits.
1 out of 5
a lot of inconsistency here. I would occasionally drink tequila. I like a good anejo and I like to drink it neat, or sometimes with a slice of lime in the glass. They refused to pour it neat. They said they had to put it on ice (ie water it down) because they were not allowed to 'pour shots'. I didnt ask for a shotglass, I just asked for it to not be altered in taste. I had already had it poured exactly neat in 3 other bars. So why this bar is claiming company policy makes no sense.The piano performaces in here were terrible, at all hours. Its like being in a library playing elevator music. Its a recipe for a real snooze-fest. Every other cruise line either has a Piano Bar or a Schooner bar were the piano player plays songs you cant help but to sing along to. Whether that be classic tunes or irish/sailor drinking songs makes no difference. You cant sing along to purely instrumental elevator music with a tempo that, had it been someones pulse, would be classified and low and thready.
1 out of 5
on the Norwegian Sun its called the Atrium Cafe & Bar. Having been told the Ultimate Beverage Package covered all specialty coffees except starbucks, my wife went down to get her daily Mocha (possibly even one with irish cream or something) only to get charged $6.50. Apparently, unlike other ships where you get seattles best made into moca's etc, they ONLY carry starbucks. Thats like saying you get unlimited free cheese, as long as its not cheddar. Please pay to upgrade to the free cheese package.... then later say we only stock cheddar, sorry about lying and getting you to upgrade.
Topsiders Bar and Grill
4 out of 5
this is your typical pool bar. Not sure why it is called a bar and grill, I never once saw food served there. But otherwise it is no different than any other pool bar.
5 out of 5
Aside from obvious fire restrictions, the show was great and the food was tasty. I missed them not having the traditional yum-yum sauce (aka that ginger dressing).
Seven Seas Main Dining Room
4 out of 5
Aside from a 2hr delay on Day 2 from the waiter being super slow and unavailable most the time, the rest of my experiences were great. The food portions were much better than those keebler-elf-sized portions Ive been served before on other ships. Everything I tried was tasty.
Great Outdoors Cafe
5 out of 5
if the other buffet is too crowded this line is much shorter with a few options. However the scenery is amazing. This was my favorite place to eat for complimentary. Their made-to-order omelets and breakfast was awesome.
4 out of 5
The options available for dinner, when the MDR was not appealing made this a good backup spot. I think their lunch options are completely lacking and just relegated to hot dogs and burgers for the most part. Where is the mogolian grill? Some BBQ, some gormet style burgers? Or variety of Tacos and/or Burritos made to order ?
2 out of 5
The fitness center was fine, similar to the 5 other cruise ships I had been on. However their daily activities seemed fairly low energy by comparison. I never saw or heard from the cruise director until the 2nd to the last day despite having been at the sail-away party. I first thought the cruise director was someone who turned out to be an assistant. Why a cruise director would fail to be at sail-away and set the tone for the cruise is beyond me. I still do not remember her name. I can tell you the first name of every other cruise I have been on since Oct 2017, if that gives you an idea of how little impression she made.
This was the first cruise where the Karaoke had so poor of a selection that most people skipped it. My daughter loves going to Karaoke but 90% of the songs she tried to find, and had sung on both RCI and carnival, were simply gone. No Prince songs out of his whole library, no Micheal Jackson songs, only 1 Ed Sheeran song and not even a popular one. Basically unless you wanted to sing old lounge lizard songs you were screwed. I guess they didn't want to pay the licensing fees for decent music.
I was surprised they didnt have minigolf, usually most ships have minigolf even if they don't have a rockwall. The kid pool was litterally a toddler pool. However that did not stop one drunk couple from making out and dry humping eachother wile children were actually in the pool. And the staff did not tell them to take that crap elsewhere. There were two pools and 4 hottubs on deck 11, but they had to play hide the saussage on deck 12 around a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds.
3 out of 5
Lacking in t-shirts with the specific cruise ship on it. They should take a page out of RCI as far as t-shirts go. It's like getting a Hard Rock shirt or Concert shirt. It is a way to advertise you've been on that ship. Carnival Liberty made the same mistake.
3 out of 5
there were not too many shows, but the magic show and the comedian were entertaining, but not mind blowing like the Aquatheatre or Blue Planet shows on the Allure-of-the-Seas.
4 out of 5
the Karaoke selecting sucked hard but the lounge and staff were great. I have the Ultimate Beverage Package and kept getting lied to about why they only had cheap-ass table grade wine at most bars for the first half the cruise. Not this bar. Even on Day 1 they had Simi Cabernet stocked and ready to pour.
5 out of 5
Since this was a open bar cruise I was worried about the kids center. Well the youth center was amazing. My son wanted to spend all his time there. One time we saw them dressed as pirates doing a parade through the ship shouting chants about taking over the ship. They had a blast. The teen center, like most ships, is a complete non-starter. They do nothing to keep them engaged. On a drinking ship this is even more important since the bartenders dont even bother to check seapass cards when ordering drinks unless its a specialty item. This means if you look 18-20yrs old, they were likely to serve you. My daughter had to remind 3 bartenders that she ordered a VIRGIN version of a drink as they began to pick up vodka or rum. She is 16. Since Karaoke was a bust, she had very little to do on sea days other than eat icecream. All cruise lines need a cruise director specifically for the teens. As the old expression goes, idle hands are the work of the devil.
5 out of 5
my son wanted to spend 90% of his time in here. They did make you get him for lunch (12-2) and dinner (5-8) but otherwise they were available resource. RCI would actually let them do dinner with the rest of adventure ocean but other cruise lines do not. I have mixed opinions but my son really loved the two times we let him eat with Adventure Ocean on the Allure of the Seas. That said, any venue where my son doesnt want to leave deserves 5 stars. Esp on a cruise were its open bar and most adults are going to be 3-sheets to the wind before 5pm
1 out of 5
These are non-starters on just about every ship. There is a teen center and teen disco on most ships. Most teens dont hang out because there is nothing to do and they get bored. They absolutely need to hire a special cruise director just for teens. These teens will be future adult cruisers one day unless they have bad impressions of prolonged boredom. When an overwhelming majority of teens have had to resort to Monopoly in the observation lounge, thats a problem.
Service and Staff
4 out of 5
The room stewart and wait staff were great with a couple exceptions. Day 2 we did the MDR in seven seas dining room. We were the 3rd in line when the dining room opened. It took 2hrs to complete our meal and the waiter was just gone for excessive amounts of time. People that were seated after us managed to get through all 3-4 courses at dinner in 35min while we sat, and sat, and sat.
The other issue we had was the constant coverup by the staff as to why things were not available that should be. I spoke briefly about the excuses regarding the wine selections and the madeup excuses there. When the whole ship got the surprise we had to tender for Harvest Cay, when we were told no tenders on this cruise, my wife called the customer service desk. She was given a BS statement about the levels of the ocean. The Sun is the LIGHTEST ship in the fleet, so the fact that the NCL Getaway was tied up to the peer made that excuse full of crap. The truth was they wanted 2 ships in port and the peer only supports 1, so we got stuck with a horrible tender process and they felt they had to lie instead of just saying we drew the short straw.
Also when walking down the hallway on Day 2 my son noticed a towel animal on a bed and was excited to see the one in his room. There was no towel animal. Apparently they 'cancelled towel animals on this cruise' I was told. How expensive could that have really been? Was it because it was a free bar cruise and doubted the passengers cared one way or another? Why not just tell room stewarts that if you know there are children, then by all means make towel animals on those staterooms. Fortunately my awesome room stewart was more than willing to oblige us with nightly towel animals.
5 out of 5
despite being a bit of an older ship the cleanliness was top notch. I am sure some people may comment on chipped porcelain or enamel at the edges of the door or floor in the stateroom bathrooms but that has nothing to do with cleanliness, its just something that happens over time.
Cabin / Stateroom
4 out of 5
this was a decent sized cabin that handled 4 guests fairly well. The couch converted into a double bed but not in the traditional pull-out sense. Instead the seat slid outward a full width and the back flipped down to become the other half. It was uncomfortable for my daughter at first, but after informing the room stewart she saw to getting some more comforters to build up cushion of sorts. Worked like a charm.
if its an unlimited free open bar, or you have the drink package, set a few drinks aside to take with you on port day to save on the overpriced drinks.
driving to the peer had us do some insane traffic maneuvers thru garmin. Such as exiting one freeway and at the bottom of the offramp do a U-turn into a 6-way intersection and get back onto another freeway.
Although this is a private island, there is no included food or drink here. So be prepared for some $$$ pricetags. Had we not been screwed with a tender, despite being assured otherwise at booking, we could have walked to the ship for lunch. Instead it took an extra 3 hrs just to get off the ship due to issues with the tender and port authority. Landshark is so expensive they cover up menu pricing on the menu the place outside the restaurant. However there are a couple bar&grills on the beach that have some menu items in the $10 - $15 ranges. Bring bottled water from the ship otherwise its $5.50 per bottle. I also brought wine with me in a canteen so I didnt have to pay the $15 per drink pricing.
The local staff that runs the port were extremely professional. Their attention to detail for the lifeguards is so amazing we felt comfortable letting my daughter and 9yo son (some cerebral palsy issues) swim without us having to helicopter parent. Those lifeguards were not fooling around. I watched them make one kid take a 5min timeout after 3 warnings about roughhousing in the pool. I felt that if something were to happen they were not just bodies standing there but qualified staff.
The nature exhibit was fun, albeit short. I was able to get a souvenir t-shirt that not only advertised the port, but all of the proceeds go to their habitat preservation. Since it was a donation, there was no taxes or gratuities added. Everywhere else charges 12.5% tax and an additional 15% service fee (aka tip). So every price you see, add 30%.
This was a great port. Plenty of local venders peddling their wares. Beware that they try to play the haggle game starting out extremely high. I like to buy those knit backpacks. In Cozumel the same backpacks costs $15 or two for $20. I wanted one that said Costa Maya. The guy started his price at $58. If you stick to your guns you'll likely pay a bit more than cozumel, but wont get taken. I paid $17. I guess they thought I would counter $58 with something like $29 and go up from there. I wasnt born yesterday.
The Aviary ($12 entry fee) was fantastic. It was a series of enclosures above ground connected by rope bridges. You got to feed and handle all the species as long as they allowed you to. Some species a bit more distant and shy but the lorikeets and a few ring neck parrokeets were very friendly, as well as the Macaw, though they wouldnt step up to my arm.
4 out of 5
getting off the ship was efficient and timely. Was able to grab breakfast in the MDR while waiting on my group color to get called.
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