The Norwegian Sun is one of the oldest cruise ships in NCL’s fleet dating back to 2001. With several refits over the years, the ship, while old by industry standards, is extremely well-maintained and modernized in all the ways you’d expect. Unfortunately, it’s not a ship for everyone and we’ll explain why.
About the Norwegian Sun Cruise Ship
Built in 2001, the Norwegian Sun capacity is about 1950 passengers (plus approximately 900 crew), about half the size of most newly built cruise ships. In 2018 the NCL Sun had a complete refit and was upgraded in line with the NCL program called Norwegian Edge, to bring it to the standards of the rest of the fleet. During the renovation, the Sun received upgraded amenities including restaurants, pools, and bars, that you’d expect and want to experience on the rest of the Norwegian Cruise Line ships. Specialty dining was added, the Spinnaker lounge was refurbished (commonly known as the observation Lounge on the ship in the forward area) and common areas including the casino, pools, and Bliss lounge were also added or refurbished.
The rooms were mostly left original during the refit.
The added spaces are a bit unusual and nothing like the other ships in the Norwegian fleet. The specialty dining exists mainly in a long galley space that contains Cagney’s, Teppanyaki, Sushi, and Los Lobos Cantina. Only La Cucina and Le Bistro have truly dedicated spaces that aren’t mixed with other eateries.
Despite the refit, the ship remains cramped in most spaces when anywhere near capacity.
What’s the vibe of the NCL Sun?
Overall, the clientele is a little older than on other Norwegian ships most likely due to the itineraries and the lack of child-friendly activities. There are no water parks, slides, or really designated child-friendly areas making the journeys feel more “adult” than other ships. There are also far fewer passengers trying to ‘break even on the drink package’ making the overall feel of the ship calmer and less of a party vibe.
The Cabins / Staterooms on the Norwegian Sun
While not substantially upgraded during the 2018 refit, the rooms are spacious and modernized with plenty of storage and everything you’d expect in a typical cruise cabin. The cabins include both 220 and 110v electrical sockets in a couple of areas along with a USB plug on either side of the bed integrated into the lighting.
The bathrooms weren’t part of the overall renovation and remain dated.
Interior Cabins & Staterooms
Quite possibly the most surprising rooms on the NCL Sun are the interior cabins. They are more spacious than many balcony rooms on newer ships. Many include a seating area and small bar space. For passengers who like interior staterooms but are concerned about the (usually) smaller size, this may be a perfect option.
The Balcony Staterooms
These are the choice cabins on the Sun as they are quite a bit bigger than the interior rooms with a nice seating area, simple modern decor, huge amounts of storage, and of course a large wall of glass. The design and layout of these staterooms make them feel substantially larger than most other balcony cabins on other ships. With mirrors everywhere, including over the headboard, the cabins feel slightly dated.
The Suites on the Norwegian Sun
The Norwegian Sun doesn’t have the Haven which is found on all the newer ships but they do have a selection of suites that are a bit larger and include butler service. The suite options include:
Owner Suites – Large 1-bedroom staterooms that are nearly 800 square feet in size with the huge balcony
Penthouse Suites – One bedroom suites approximately 350 sq feet + 126 sq foot balcony
Mini-Suites – Slightly larger than a Balcony Cabin + Bathtubs
The Suite passengers gain access to Cagney’s for lunch since there are no dedicated suite or Haven restaurants available. (not available for the Mini-Suites or Club Suites)
Dining & Restaurant Options on The Norwegian Sun
As with all Norwegian Cruise Ships, there are free and specialty dining options available to all passengers. The free options are more limited than other NCL Cruise ships simply due to the size of the vessel.
Included Free Restaurants:
There are two Main Dining Rooms serving essentially the same food every evening.
Four Seasons, located in the center of the ship off of the main atrium is a large dining space that fills up early and sometimes has availability issues with smaller 2 and 4-party tables, where they’ll ask if you’d like to be seated with another party.
Seven Seas, our preferred main dining restaurant, is located in the rear of the ship has abundant space, great views from everywhere especially the aft of the ship, and is the only main dining room that serves lunch (on select days).
Also included is the Garden Cafe (Buffet). This space is entirely too small for the size of the ship and a very cramped buffet layout creates lines or confusion among passengers trying to get to different sections. The food overall was usually good, albeit sometimes unusual.
If the buffet seating is too crowded, the ship has done a good job to provide areas for overflow seating including an outdoor area aft with nearly as much seating as indoors along with another buffet line that serves basics like burgers and hotdogs. Many passengers didn’t realize there were food options outside in this area since the food was tucked away behind the bar! Don’t miss it, it’s a great alternative to the buffet.
Moderno, opposite the buffet, is open during lunch for additional seating. There is also a dedicated pizza and noodle station set up during lunch in the Moderno dining room, both quite good.
Finally, what’s missing from the Norwegian Sun is O’Sheehan’s bar & grill. While there is no large bar/pub as featured on the more modern ships, the Sun does have a small sports bar serving a limited menu similar to what’s found at O’Sheehan’s including the yummy chicken wings and a few pub burgers & hotdogs. Unfortunately, food service starts at 5:30 pm so getting your mid-day pub snack isn’t possible.
Specialty Dining Restaurants on the Norwegian Sun
After the 2018 refit of the Sun, more specialty restaurants were added. We tried them all!
Cagney’s Steak House – The staple of Norwegian’s Premium Dining was consistent with other ships. The starters were as expected with small-ish portion sizes. The steaks were amazing and perfectly cooked and the sides were tasty as usual. The desserts were ridiculously large and quite good. See the Cagney’s Menu
Le Bistro – The French restaurant on NCL ships always seems to be hit or miss, regardless of the ship. The same is true with the Sun. The appetizers always seem to be a bit off while the main meals are generally quite good. Since this space is separate from the other specialty restaurants, it actually feels more elegant and refined. See the Le Bistro Menu
Teppanyaki – The Teppanyaki grill, again, is always very consistent across the whole Norwegian brand. On the Sun, the space is a bit smaller and in a fully enclosed room with multiple grilles. It’s exactly as expected in all ways including food quality and experience. But be sure to wear clothes that you don’t plan on using again on your vacation! You leave smelling like the whole restaurant and it’s impossible to get it out of your clothes.
Moderno Churrascaria – We love the Brazilian steakhouse concept on Norwegian Cruise Line. However, for this particular ship, the biggest letdown is the physical space where Moderno Churrascaria is. It almost seems like an afterthought being very bland and almost an extension of the buffet. Aside from that, the menu is exactly as you’d expect across the NCL Brand. Unfortunately during the Mediterranean sailings, we were told by the restaurant managers that the quality of meat sometimes suffers from the suppliers. We noticed this mostly in the Picanha meat, which is ironic considering the ship sails from Portugal, where this meat cut is popular and quite good. See the Moderno Menu
Los Lobos Cantina – We were surprised to see Los Lobos Cantina on the Norwegian Sun since it’s a relatively new concept by NCL. The food was quite good and had something for everyone looking for a full Mexican meal. The meat dishes such as Carne Asada were superior while the fish dishes lacked flavor. The best surprise of Los Lobos was the unique margarita drinks available, all of them well within the beverage package limits. Booking a table there using one of the dining package credits may not be the best value, as most of the meals won’t add up to the $59 dining package value (when used elsewhere). So it’s just better to use those credits at Cagney’s, Le Bistro, etc. See the Los Lobos Cantina Menu
Sushi Bar – The Sushi bar on the NCL Sun seems like a bit of an afterthought, but it’s comfortable and easy to get a table or sit at the sushi bar. Unfortunately, the quality of the sushi served isn’t great. It may be sufficient to cure a quick sushi roll craving, but not advised for a full meal. It pales in comparison to the sushi bar on other Norwegian ships such as the Epic. Definitely do NOT use a dining package credit at the sushi bar!
La Cucina – The well-known Italian restaurant on board NCL ships is on the Norwegian Sun as well, in a dedicated space that is quiet and elegant. The food at La Cucina is the most consistent on this ship with the rest of the NCL brand. If you’ve eaten at La Cucina on other larger NCL ships, you should be satisfied with the food quality and preparation on the Sun. Take a look at the La Cucina Menu.
Bars & Pubs on the Sun
It’s not much of a surprise that Norwegian has made sure there are plenty of watering holes on the ship! Even with capacity at nearly 100%, it wasn’t often difficult to get a cocktail or soda from any bar.
Bliss Lounge – This repurposed central space is more of a theater-style setup rather than a “club” as it is on other ships. The space is used for live music and some of the special events on the ship (glow party, etc). But when you want a drink, this bar is almost always quiet and drinks are easily available.
Atrium Bar & Cafe – More of a coffee bar with a side of alcohol within the small atrium of the ship.
Champs Bar – At the very top of the ship (Forward), this outdoor space is a great place to get a drink when you want to sit in the Spinnaker and the bar there is not yet open (Days). Just exit Spinnaker and go straight up the outdoor stairs to the bar, which is rarely busy.
Champagne & Martini Bar – The most popular space later in the evening, this bar has seating around the atrium and the bar itself with table service. It gets quite busy, so get a table when it’s available.
Los Lobos Bar – The hidden gem! It’s a small nook just inside the specialty restaurant check-in desk. Most guests don’t realize you can just go to this bar and have a drink without being booked in the cantina or other specialty restaurants. The best part is, if you’re a margarita lover, you can order the specialty margaritas any time the bar is open serving Los Lobos Cantina! (definitely don’t settle for the everyday margarita found everywhere on the ship)
Great Outdoors – The best outdoor bar space serving the rear (aft) of the ship. Great views all day / evening and often with food options to go with the drinks.
Sports Bar – Open all day and til late at night, this is the answer to the O’Sheehan’s bar & grill found on the other NCL ships.
Casino Bar – Just a simple walk-up bar to grab a drink while in the casino. It’s also a good place to get something if the rest of the bars are crowded, as the casino bar is usually empty.
Topsiders Bar – The typical pool bar serving everything the ship has to offer.
Windjammer & Havana Bar – A favorite on the ship! A dark wood paneled room with a large bar where some of the best cocktails are made. I still don’t get the division between Windjammer and Havana, as it’s the same space, theme, etc. Usually, solo performers arrive in the evening for light music.
Spinnaker Lounge – The crown jewel of the ship! At the very front of the NCL Sun, this huge lounge with sweeping views and relaxing seating areas is the place to be. During the day it’s a great place to read, play cards, or just gaze out at the sea. You can even exit the bar and walk around the front of the glass windows outside and see the wide open ocean! Stunning!
The bar usually doesn’t open until around 4pm, so grab a drink at Champs. Unfortunately, the ship has chosen this venue to do karaoke at around 10pm many nights, which makes the space less enjoyable.
Norwegian Sun Entertainment, what’s on board?
Entertainment quality is always very subjective, and with NCL cutting entertainment budgets in 2023, it’s a bit of a sore spot with travelers. On the Norwegian Sun, entertainment doesn’t include the big production shows found on larger ships, but it’s sometimes quite good. You’ll hear people complain about the theater shows, and in fairness, they are a bit repetitive, but the ship doesn’t do much to promote the shows they actually have. The musicians in each of the venues with a rare exception were very good and enjoyable to listen to. The stage shows were a bit strange but entertaining enough to give passengers something to do.
The entertainment on the Norwegian Sun is probably the biggest weakness of the ship. Passengers who book their cruise around a strong entertainment lineup will likely be disappointed. Otherwise, we found it sufficient and as expected for a smaller ship.
Some of the shows included :
Rock Symphonies Violinist – An incredibly talented violinist with the support of other instruments
World Beat – A variety show of sorts featuring music & dance from around the world.
Rock Tribute – A tribute performance for Queen, The Who, and Journey
Other activities & things to do on the ship
Despite the smaller size of the Sun, there are quite a few activities including an outdoor sports court, shuffleboard, and a full ship jogging track. For the healthier version of cruise passengers (rare, I know), there is a full-size gym that is remarkably well-equipped, and a separate aerobics studio with scheduled classes. The studio is free to use for yoga, stretching, HIIT, etc at your own leisure when classes aren’t being taught. These studios are complimentary and open 6 am until 11 pm (so there’s hardly an excuse!).
During the day, there were plenty of random activities around the ship for just about anyone. The Bliss Lounge often featured new release movies, there were always arts and crafts, Zumba classes, and themed trivia to be found.
For passengers wanting some quiet time, the Norwegian Sun has one of the nicer libraries and game rooms we’ve seen at sea. There were hundreds of books to read & check out as well as a fully stocked game room with backgammon, new sets of cards, and plenty of other board games.
These game rooms also make a great place to quietly work on your laptop, as they have full-size tables where you can spread out and get something done (even if you ARE on vacation)!
The pools & sun decks on the NCL Sun
The pool level was a pleasant surprise with two relatively large pools connected in the middle by 4 covered jacuzzi-style hot tubs. There were plenty of chairs on multiple decks overlooking the pool and rarely was there a problem getting a good poolside spot.
For sun worshippers, there was a HUGE number of outdoor spaces with loungers throughout the ship from wide swaths of decking to little private nooks.
The Sun Casino is a decent size given how the ship is smaller. There are dozens of slots and video games in two sections as well as gaming tables down the center of the casino. What’s a bit mind-boggling is the fact there is only one roulette table in the entire casino and it is clearly the game everyone is interested in playing. It was consistently packed while all other tables were nearly empty. Common sense would say add more roulette tables.
The slots ranged from penny slots to machines where you could easily spend $10 per spin. Unlike on the larger ships, there wasn’t really a buzz about the casino but it was sufficient to keep people occupied and donating money to NCL during the cruise. Hardcore gamblers will likely be disappointed.
Another unfortunate bit about the casino is the smoking situation. It’s such a small space where smoking is allowed, it’s almost impossible to function as a non-smoker. It feels like the smokers on the ship make use of the casino as a smoking parlor rather than going to other designated smoking areas making the air quality in such a small space, let’s just say, less than ideal.
The Mandara Spa
The NCL Sun has a relatively small spa facility but lacks the thermal spa suite that the newer ships have. However, for people who enjoy the use of a sauna and steam room, the Sun has dedicated men’s and women’s locker rooms each with a dry sauna and a steam room which can be used when receiving a treatment or by purchasing a daily or full cruise pass. Approximately $29/day for use of the sauna & steam room or $149 for the duration of a 10-day cruise may seem excessive for most people, but at least it’s available for those passengers who really want this feature. (cost may vary based on itinerary and cruise length)
Other services offered at the spa are as expected including various massage therapies, acupuncture, facials, and salon services (hair, mani/pedi, etc)
Do you have a comment?
Did we miss something? Have you had a different experience? Did we get it wrong?
Spa Service Prices Norwegian Sun / Mandara Spa
In Summary, Our Review
Norwegian Sun Cruise Ship
The Norwegian Sun is a true delight in NCL's fleet, a testament to the timelessness and beauty of sea travel. With its history dating back to 2001, the Sun has seen numerous renovations over the years, ensuring that it remains as modern and well-maintained as ever. Despite its age, the Sun still offers an incredible experience, with a capacity of 1950 passengers and a host of upgraded amenities, including specialty dining, refurbished lounges, and refreshed common areas like the casino and pools. While it may not be the largest ship, the Sun is more than just a means of transportation from port to port - it's a celebration of all that makes classic cruising such a magical experience. Due to the limited space and lack of events for children, the Sun is not for everyone, but it will delight many cruisers both new and experienced.
Product Brand: Norwegian Cruise Line
- Good Itineraries
- Abundant food options
- Well Maintained
- Older ship
- Smaller than newer ships
- no kid's activities