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No, the food is not "terrible" on NCL. I think it is very good. We have cruised on Royal Caribbean, Carnival and 5 times on NCL. The food quality is right up there with Royal Caribbean in my opinion. We have not cruised on any of the three ships you mentioned, so I can't comment on them specifically. However, the Sea was built in 1988, the Dream in 1992 and the Sun in 2001, so, no doubt it would be the nicest. I think it is a sister ship to the Star which we have cruised twice and just love. Don't be afraid of NCL. We really enjoy this cruise line.
I have cruised on all three. The Dream and Sea were great in their day. Many still love them. I will be on the Sun for a second time this summer and can not recomend it enough.
I my view (everyones is different) it is the first ship in the fleet built for freestyle that will allow to enjoy the advantages. I in some ways I like it better then the Dawn.
If you want to test the waters of NCL start with the Sun and see if freestyle is for you. If it is you will come Back. With all the choices in resturants you wil always find food you enjoy not just eat.
Do your homework. Read lots of reviews. The good and the bad. Get a feel for freestyle. If having the same waiter everynight and all the dining rituals are important move on.
If being able to stay an extra hour and enjoy new friends or a great sunset rather then rushing to dinner is important call NCL or your TA.
Seaward 1/89,Southward II 1/91,Windward 10/93,
Carnival Spirit 7/02
NCL Sun 10/03
NCL Dawn 2/03,7/03,2/04
I haven't been on the Dream so I can't comment. The Sea has VERY small staterooms and outdated decor. It does have a nice "small ship" feel though. The Sun has larger rooms, better bathrooms, better decor and is newer/larger. I didn't like the Sea and the only reason I would go on it again is if it had a fantastic itenerary that I couldn't find on any other ship. My vote would be for the Sun. As for the food, it's all a matter of taste. I've never had a problem finding things I liked. I generally stay away from the buffet - but I'm not a buffet kind of gal. My advice would be to try new things that you wouldn't try at home - because most times you will be pleasantly surprised.
We have been on RCCL 3 times, Princess once, and just returned from the NCL Sun. I was worried about how the food was going to be, and was pleasantly surprised. We felt variety and quality were on par with the other two cruise lines.
We've been on the Sun and the Dream and I, too, would recommend the Sun. It's a beautiful ship. I think the food on NCL is very good. We love freestyle dining and look forward to sailing with NCL again.
NCL Dream - Canada/NE 9/25/02
NCL Sun - Alaska 7/13/03
NCL Sun - Panama Canal 4/11/04
We have been on the Sea twice (not been on the Dawn or the Dream) and are going for a third time in October. We as you can guess love it. The rooms are a bit smaller than some of the others we have been on (RCCL and Carnival but unless you are a recluse you are pretty much only in the room for changing or sleeping or to just get away from all the fun to be had outside the room. A cruise cabin is some ways is like a room in Vegas, you just ain't in it enough to worry about size. This will be our first time with Freestyle so not sure how that will go. We kind of like having the same waiter and table and time, etc, but will go with the flow. Ain't no vacation as good as a cruise!!
Our maiden voyage in January was on the Sea. We thoroughly enjoyed it. We thought the food was very good. Hubby gained 10 pounds, I gained 5.
The staterooms are small and dated, but we didn't spend enough time in them for it to matter. The beds were comfortable. The first night, one of our group slept in until 9:30 the next morning, which they never do. Those nice, dark, inside staterooms, with the motion of the ship were great relaxers.
We thought the ports were great, and enjoyed our shore excursions. We went to both Tulum and Altun Ha, and loved them.
That being said, our friends that we were with had been on a cruise last year on one of the bigger NCL ships with his boss -- might have been the Sky. His boss HATED the Sea and kept comparing it to the other ship.
If you think the itinerary is right, I would definitely recommend it. I think it is an excellent choice for first time cruisers, as you won't be comparing it to other cruises.
We will be going on the Sun next week. It will be interesting to see if my feelings change after that, but right now, I would do another cruise on the Sea if given the opportunity.
We have sailed on the Sea and the Sun and enjoyed both cruises immensely. I would sail on the Sea again any day, but given the choice, would take the SUN . She is a very special ship for me . Food on both ships was excellent. Entertainment, also excellent. The Sea is a very pretty ship (especially from an exterior view), but the interiors are dated and nowhere near as grand as the newer ships. That didn't make much difference to us, but to some it might be a bit detracting.
The Sun is something special...beautiful, clean ship, great crew, good passenger mix, etc. I would definitely recommend her!