How many times have you heard that old cliche that modern big ships have given up trying to look good? Like all the best cliches it does, of course, have an element of truth. But, like Frankenstein’s monster, it acquired a life of it’s own. It’s a conceit that is rarely challenged these days at all.
I’d argue- and quite forcefully- that the 2001 built Norwegian Sun is easily one of the most beautiful and elegant ships to be built anywhere. Both inside and out, this ship is a stunning, salutary reminder that ‘big’ does not have to be bland, or banal. She is, quite simply, a wonderful confection of style, grace and scale. Three crucial elements in creating a modern maritime paragon.
She also happens to be a very well run ship. I’ve sailed her three times- twice in the Caribbean, and also on a Baltic itinerary from Dover, which is where these photos come from. And, as much as I enjoy all the Norwegian ships (and I first cruised on them way back in 1981) I have to say that the Sun has become my favourite in the Norwegian fleet.
Like her two near sisters, Norwegian Sky and Costa Victoria, she was built in Germany by the Lloyd Werft shipyard. The Sun actually features an extra deck of balcony cabins compared to the 1999 built Sky, but they are otherwise almost identical, at least externally.
Her timing could hardly have been worse. She was delivered just before the attacks on America on 9/11, and a planned, maiden 2002 Mediterranean season for the ship had to be abandoned. I was in Miami the day that she was christened, in a joint ceremony with the brand new Norwegian Star. The two ships were bow to bow. Even from a distance, it was quite a sight.
Still, she quickly settled into the seven day, western Caribbean run out of Miami, calling at Roatan, Belize, Cozumel and Grand Cayman. I fell in love with her on my first cruise that same year. The vast amount of open space amidships, with two pools and a quartet of hot tubs, was the most impressive I had ever seen. It still remains one of my favourites to this day.
The elegant, window walled centrum lobby was much more restrained than on later ships. with much use of brass, etched glass and sheet marble. Those huge windows flooded the area with light, and never to more dazzling effect than on that Baltic cruise, when the surreal twilight of the ‘White Nights’ ensured that it never really got dark at all. There is an elegant champagne terrace here, and the nightly live jazz helps make it one of the most sublime lounging spots afloat.
Norwegian Sun was also the first ship to fully showcase Norwegian’s shift to ‘Freestyle Dining’ to full effect. With a string of alternative dining venues offering French, Italian and Mexican cuisine, as well as classic international fayre, she raised the stakes for the entire cruise industry. More importantly for her owners, she became an almost perfect proving ground for the roll out of the subsequent Jewel class.
To my mind, a great part of her charm rests in the fact that she is pretty much a one off ship within the company. Her interiors are far more European styled, and much more classical, than the conga line of funky, fun infused, Jewel class siblings that complement her. She is as different in tone and execution from them as it is possible to imagine.
The forward facing Observation Lounge on the upper deck offers an almost 270 degree view of the horizon, Vast, expansive and filled with wonderful wicker furniture, it is simply one of the most sublime public rooms on any ship at sea anywhere; a calm oasis on what can be an otherwise quite lively party boat.
Accommodation runs the gamut, from snug, fully equipped insides to some wonderful suites overlooking the bow. A couple of these even have hot tubs on their balconies; a truly sweet option for those who can afford to savour them. It took me a while to get used to the vertical bars on the balcony cabin railings, but the tea and coffee making facilities were a pleasant surprise. These rooms are especially pleasant, though the bathrooms are more conventional than on the Jewel class. No sliding doors here at all.
Downstairs, there is a lot of imitation dark wood panelling at promenade deck level, which is where most of the public rooms are. The disco is huge; one of the biggest afloat. The nearby shopping gallery is quietly elegant. Like many areas of the ship, it is considerably enhanced by stained glass ceilings in a myriad of lovely colours.
Since her inauguration, the Sun has become one of the best travelled ships in the Norwegian fleet. There have been summer seasons in Alaska- a route she will revive this year- and, before that, two seasons sailing round trip from Dover to the Baltic capitals. She has even made cruises down to Mexico from San Francisco.
However, in the last two years she has been cruising the eastern Caribbean on exotic long, ten and eleven day jaunts. These were initially from Port Canaveral, but last year she returned to her original home port of Miami after a considerable absence. Her size, style and sense of elegance combines with some truly alluring options to make her one of the best winter picks available to winter sun seekers.
Norwegian Sun comes in at around 77,000 tons, and has a passenger capacity of just over two thousand. While big enough to offer every kind of diversion you could want on a cruise, she is still a lot smaller than many of her own fleet mates. That means that embarking and disembarking at ports is less time consuming, and she is a pretty easy ship to find your way around.
She is a beautiful ship, with a gorgeous flared bow and staunch, graceful flanks. But, above all, there is a genuine sense of pride displayed by a very hard working crew- one of the best afloat- that suffuses this lovely ship from bow to stern. It’s a ‘can-do’ attitude that gives Norwegian Sun a really genuine, feel good vibe. The ship is a delight from bow to stern, top deck to keel.
All things considered, if you want a smart, elegant ship with more than a little class, some really beautifully styled rooms and some very good service, you could do much worse than the Sun. Stir in a whole lot of soul, and you have got what amounts to an excellent choice for cruising, no matter where she goes in the world. Enjoy.