Nik - Congrats on your first cruise!
We cruised on the Sun to Alaska in June. Pics can be found here: www.cmgoddard.com
(click on cruises in top left, also some on our family page)
I'll put parts of the review below that I posted on another cruise board. We did NOT book through shoretrips or the ship, but rather websites I have shared below. I also compared our shore excursion to the comparable NCL excursion to show price differences (based on the details described in the NCL shore excursion literature). Also, we did not lay out by the pool... while it was fair weather, it was still too cool for us to consider swimming, even in a heated pool (but in Wrangell it was definitely crowded when we came back onboard, so we lounged on our balcony). However, there were two days we did wear shorts very comfortably.
As far as crowds on the Sun, it was nothing like driving through Chicago the other day. Yuck!!!
Review from the June 12-19 Sun...
The first line we entered was Customs. Not a problem. Then we split into the separate Norwegian lines (regular checkin, Latitudes, Suite/VIP). Four of us were in the Suite/VIP line. In this line there were cookies and marble bread, and we met the concierge and butler. Quite honestly, we felt this line moved slower than the rest (we watched the rest of our party in the other lines complete the process faster and board the ship well ahead of us). The positive thing was getting to meet our concierge at this time.
After completing checkin (setting up onboard credit, picture taken for cruisecard), we proceeded towards the gangplank. There were two photo stops, which we did, but did not purchase.
Cabin (AF MiniSuite 9278, aft):
Wow. We were impressed with everything and did not have a single complaint about the cabin. Ample storage, and as others in our group said, they could get lost in our bathroom!! We really enjoyed the layout of the cabin, and particularly the location. Only 18 cabins overlooked the wake, with six on three decks.
Our friends (Joe and Grace) were nextdoor in AF MiniSuite 9078 which was identical. Our headboards and bathtubs shared the same central wall. Visiting on the balcony was easy, as we did not have to really lean over the divider much. However, the divider between the minisuites and the BA balcony cabin nextdoor seemed to be thicker/wider. You really had to lean over the railing that way if you wanted to chitchat with those guests. If you are wanting a complete overhang, this is not the balcony for you. The overhang was only about a foot, but even standing out, you still had privacy because of the angle of the aft of the ship. The only way people from above could see us was if we were standing against our railing and they were too. I even tried looking at our balcony from deck 11 (outdoor café) but could only see Curt when he was against the railing.
Our balcony had two chairs, one small round table, and one lounge chair. Joe/Grace had the same furniture with the addition of another lounger. Blankets and towels were provided in our cabin. Because of the occasional soot, we would take the towels outside to sit on, as I learned my lesson the second day of the cruise.
The last two nights, the weather was good enough to sleep with the door open for fresh air. Hubby gets cold easily, so when I tried sleeping with the door open earlier in the week, he asked me to close it. Hearing the wake down below was so relaxing! And just like on most ships, sleeping at the aft of the ship is peaceful, particularly with that little vibrating alarm clock when pulling into port!!
We definitely used the balcony, safe, refrigerator, and bathtub (which was large enough for two).
Other than the two aft minisuites, the rest of our group had opted for category J inside cabins on decks 8, 9, and 10. They found the cabins to be efficient and well laid out. Curt and I did visit some of their cabins and found them larger than our category J inside cabin we had on the Sun’s sister ship in 2000, NCL Sky (now reflagged as Pride of Aloha).
Room steward (Armando):
To put it bluntly, he was the best ever. Even when we book inside cabins, we stay on a suite deck and have the same room steward as the suites. Armando was top notch. Not a detail was missed. We also had not really ever had towel animals, but he continually surprised us, with our favorite being two swans meeting with their heads forming a heart. I am not a wasteful person, so if I used a shower cap, I would hang it up to use it again later. Armando would throw it away and put a new little package in the tray in the bathroom. When we took a packaged roll of toilet paper in Skagway for our drive on the Klondike Highway (just in case… since we knew there were very few restrooms), we came back to the ship to see he had placed another roll in the bathroom. Just those little details – he did not overlook anything.
Anca Zamfir is the new concierge onboard the NCL Sun as of June 12. We remembered seeing Anca on the Norway during our wedding cruise. Anca did a terrific job and was delightful to visit with. In visiting with her, we learned she speaks five languages fluently (wow!). NCL has made a wise decision in adding Anca to the fine pool of concierges. We expect to see her as a rising star with NCL. Anca’s previous NCL ships include S/S Norway and NCL Sea.
I utilized the 24-hour fitness center. Cardio equipment included treadmills (open 8A-8P), four elliptical machines, bicycles (sit down and regular), and stairmasters. I did not use the weight equipment. Before getting on the equipment, I would wipe my equipment down as well as when I would get off. Even there were signs asking you to wipe equipment off after use, I still saw some people workout then leave without wiping off their equipment despite the signs. So to make sure I was on clean equipment, I definitely used the spray bottle and paper towels before beginning my workout.
~ LeBistro (twice) was superb. The first night I had my normal (escargot, asparagus, cream of forest mushroom, Caesar salad, Bearnaise Barigold on a Red Wine Jus filet mignon, and chocolate fondue). The second night I had double asparagus (LOVE their asparagus), spinach salad, surf-and-turn, and banana flambé. I wanted fondue too, but didn’t think I could handle it just then, so they told me to call them later when I was ready for it and it would be delivered to our cabin. Hubby and I enjoyed sharing it on our balcony overlooking the wake. Very romantic.
~ Il Adagio was good. However, as I put in the comment form, we felt it was not worth the $12.50 surcharge. Maybe $7.50. I had the mozzarella.tomatoes, cesar salad made table side, pasta special, and incredible chocolate hazelnut cake. Hubby and the shrimp scampi with fort cloves of garlic. We love the views in this restaurant (same as the Horizons on the Sky when we sailed it, but was the same menu as dining room and no surcharge). Below is a view from our table in this narrow restaurant.
~ Two nights we ate in our cabin. Embarkation night (just too tired from travel – ordered prime rib and French onion soup from main dining room menu) and after Tracy Arm (tablehogs were upstairs and we didn’t feel like dressing for dinner after being outside all day, so we brought a tray down from Garden Café since there were no seats)
~ Two nights we ate in Seven Seas. Service was fine. However, we had made a 5:30 reservation for the last night for fourteen, but were told there were no tables to accommodate that many. They placed us at two tables for seven (splitting one couple). We passed a few tables set up for groups that definitely held 14 and were empty when we arrived and left, so I am not sure why we were placed at two separate tables. On our wedding cruise, we had a table of 15 and table of 4 next to it, which had been no problem.
Breakfast and lunch were mostly Garden Café, but we did enjoy Seven Seas and the soup/sandwich bar a couple of times.
Appetizers (tapas) at Las Ramblas were okay, but I really went there to enjoy the Sangria. $5.95 per glass or $13 for a half-pitcher which really seemed to be about four glasses.
~ As always, there is the “jeans in the dining room” question. Yes, jeans were seen each night when dining although we did not see any in Il Adagio. The most surprising to me was jeans in LeBistro on formal night. A couple by the window about our age wore jeans, sweatshirt, and sandals. (He wore an untucked flannel shirt). We’ve seen jeans in the dining room on each cruise we’ve been on, and NCL is no exception. Attire recommendations are always made in daily programs on each line, but I have yet to see anyone turned away from a restaurant for attire.
The NCL Sun Executive Chef, Markus Reichl, was fantastic. We attended a couple of his cooking demonstrations which were quite enjoyable. He definitely had a great sense of humor!
I will admit we did not attend a single show in the Stardust Lounge except for popping in to hear the comedian for about 10 minutes from the back. To us, the “show” was everything outside the ship.
For musical entertainment, we thoroughly enjoyed guitarist Marc Obitz. He took our requests in Las Ramblas, and could play a wide variety of artists. The pianist on formal night about put us to sleep in Windjammer, so we explored the ship.
Again, entertainment for us with this Alaska cruise was outside the ship. On most of our cruises, we attend a show each night, but Alaska was unique.
Weather ranged from upper forties to upper seventies. We did wear shorts on two days. The inside passage, Ketchikan, and Juneau did have periods of mist/rain (Monday-Wednesday) and it cleared up after that. Our tour driver in Juneau told us they had had no rain the past 30 days until the day we arrived, and they needed the rain.
We did not attend the Captain’s reception on Formal Night, as we had planned for our group to dine in LeBistro. However, we did attend the Lattitudes reception in the Stardust Lounge (yummy rum punch!) and the VIP reception afterwards in the room off the library (champagne and munchies). On the Norway, the VIP reception was held in the Captain’s Quarters (who had a huge balcony) but on the Sun, it was off the library. Staff was very friendly here, shaking your hand as you walked in. However, at Latitudes, they were not into shaking hands, which we found odd. After leaving these two receptions, we went downstairs to Il Adagio for dinner.
We went fishing with Ken of Northern Lights. Four of us from NCL Sun and two from Celebrity Infinity. Our scheduled time was 7:00-12:00. We were on the first tender to shore, but it dropped us off down past the third cruiseship. We just assumed that was where Ken would meet us, but apparently this was NOT a normal tender point. NCL had tendered us there, then the photography crew walked off. We waited, and after seeing no more NCL tenders (plus the fact that the photography crew walked off) we started wondering if this was actually where the tender would take us back to the ship, as NCL crew had said absolutely nothing. Normally in the past when tendering, you return to the ship from the same place you are dropped off. Anyway, we did venture down the dock and did find Ken. He was locating the two guys from Infinity.
The eagles were very impressive. However, apparently some killer whales had been through the area earlier in the morning. Ken said that sometimes that scares the fish for two hours or two days. With five poles in the water (I was an observer) we didn’t get a single nibble. Ken even kept us out until 1:15, and still nothing. I’m sure getting a nibble or even a fish would have been amazing. Just too bad you can’t predict when the whales are going to come through the area!!
We visited Creek Street after our fishing excursion before boarding the tender back to ship (different location than drop-off).
We did a $20/pp tour of Juneau and Mendenhall. We got this at the dock. Because NCL docked far away, they provided buses to the main area (across from the tram). We took a 9:30 tour and were back at 11:40. Mendenhall Glacier was really fantastic to see, and our tour guide had grown up in Juneau. He was very knowledgeable.
~ Tracy Arm:
Wow. That’s all I can say. Decks were packed, so we spent the day on our aft balcony. We kept the door open so we could see the bridge cam, which played music. Marion Mitchell made the commentary though the television, and he was absolutely terrific. Some in our group stayed outside the Sports Bar, and with our walkie talkies, we were able to point out different things to each other. We did make it to the point where you could see North and South Sawyer Glacier, and turned around there. All of the waterfalls, icebergs, scenery, etc. was just amazing. Our aft minisuite paid for itself that day. We easily had 8 on our balcony leaning against the railing.
We used Murray’s guide and drove the Klondike Highway. Before leaving Skagway, we signed up for the 3:00 NPS walking tour of Skagway. To rent three cars, it took about 20 minutes (we were the first in line and had made reservations months in advance through Avis on the internet, as well as called to reconfirm in May with the Skagway Avis office directly). Our walkie talkies came in very handy on this drive.
My parents/grandparents were getting tired, so they went on back to the ship after seeing Emerald Lake. We were maybe 10 minutes behind them. About a mile before the Canada border, they saw a mother bear and THREE cubs crossing the road. Of course cameras had those once-in-a-lifetime problems, but we hope one got a shot of the bear’s butt going over the ridge. They were so happy to have the sighting.
We did a self-guided walking tour of Wrangell after visiting the Visitor’s Center (very informative!). We saw the Totem Park, Chief Shakes’ island, and Petroglyphs Beach. We also had very yummy ice cream waffle cones from a place in town for $2.25 each. When getting off the ship, the visitor’s center and attractions were to the right, and Petroglyphs Beach was a mile to the left (easy walk – past the ferry terminal).
Smooth for those of us with VIP. We were off about 7:30 and in our Budget rental vehicle by 8:30. We took the scenic drive back to Seattle.
However… five in our group purchased the $60 NCL transfer to Seattle. 7:35 was the scheduled “yellow group” disembarkation time and was recommended for flights after 2:00 PM. They were not called until long, long after 7:35. To make a long story short, they finally borded a QuickShuttle bus and left Canada Place at 10:30. Let me explain why this bothered us: I had very thoroughly researched every aspect of this cruise in the months preceding embarkation. We knew QuickShuttle cost about $41 and left at 9:40 for nonstop to Seattle (arrive approximately 1:30). Some on CruiseCritic had stated that the NCL shuttle passengers left earlier (and past cruisers had arrived SEATAC by noon). Because since my husband had a 3:05 flight, we decided to pay the extra cost and go with NCL versus QuickShuttle. According to my husband, it was mass chaos after clearing customs. One NCL rep would say one thing, and another NCL rep would say another. Nobody seemed to know what was going on. Apparently NCL was to use Gray Lines but had reserved the buses for Monday instead of Sunday (the disembarkation day). Whatever the reason, they were placed on QuickShuttle (again, which we could have booked independently for much cheaper). Not all got on the first bus, so two in our group went later since their flight home was the next day. I am not sure what time they finally got to SEATAC, but when my husband’s group left Canada Place at 10:30, the other bus had not shown up. Fortunately my husband made it to SEATAC by 2:00 for his 3:05 flight. He is just happy he made the flight, as he was becoming very stressed by the NCL chaos at Canada Place. Thankfully, border crossing on his bus took about 15 seconds.
My concern that I will be sharing with NCL is this:
If NCL is just going to put passengers on QuickShuttle at a LATER time than the 9:40 QuickShuttle bus, then don’t even offer the service. Hubby could have saved money and left much earlier by booking QuickShuttle versus the NCL transfer.
This was not a concern I could share on our comment card since we were now off the bus.
Websites we utilized with this cruise:
Pre-Cruise Hotel in Seattle (Hilton Garden Inn - Renton):
Transportation from Hotel to Amtrak Station (Seattle): http://www.shuttleexpress.com/webpages/FAQ.html
Amtrak from Seattle to Vancouver: http://www.amtrakcascades.com
Ketchikan Fishing with Northern Lights: http://www.ketchikanfishing.net/cruise.htm
Juneau - Mendenhall Glacier: http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/dis...all/index.html
Skagway Car Rental: www.avis.com
Skagway Mile-By-Mile Detail: http://www.explorenorth.com/library/...e-photos1.html
Lunch on this drive:
Skagway National Park Service (3:00 PM Walking Tour): http://www.nps.gov/klgo/
Wrangell - Visitor Info: http://www.wrangell.com/visitors/attractions/history/
Wrangell - National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/wrst/home.htm
Post-Cruise one-way MiniVan Rental: www.bcbudget.com
Post-Cruise Hotel (Embassy Suites - SEATAC): http://embassyseatac.com/
WEBCAMS THROUGHOUT THE WEEK (shared ahead of time with family not going on cruise):
Sunday, June 12 - Vancouver embarkation (port cam showing various ships in port from a distance)
bridge cam: http://www.ncl.com/fleet/09/webcam.htm
list of other ships in port that you may see in the port cam pic: http://www.cruisecal.com/dnn/default.aspx?tabid=198
Monday - at sea for inside passage http://www.ncl.com/fleet/09/webcam.htm
same pic but with statistics to the side (always available): http://www.kroooz-cams.com/ncl_sun/ncl_sun.htm
Tuesday - Ketchikan (port cam)... we are tendering, so we will not be docked
list of other ships in port in Ketchikan: http://www.cruisecal.com/dnn/default.aspx?tabid=129
Wednesday - Juneau in the morning (port cam) http://www.kroooz-cams.com/ports/juneau.htm
Tracy Arm in afternoon (bridge cam - icebergs in water) http://www.ncl.com/fleet/09/webcam.htm
list of other ships in port in Juneau: http://www.cruisecal.com/dnn/default.aspx?tabid=125
Thursday - Skagway (drive to Emerald Lake) http://www.kroooz-cams.com/ports/skagway.htm
Live webcam in Carcross (the little town just before Emerald Lake):
list of other ships in port in Skagway:
Friday - Wrangell (in afternoon) - NCL bridge cam http://www.ncl.com/fleet/09/webcam.htm
Saturday - at sea for inside passage (NCL bridge cam) http://www.ncl.com/fleet/09/webcam.htm
Sunday, June 19 - disembarkation in Vancouver
port cam: http://www.northvancouver.com/webcam...cam/index.html
NCL Sun bridge cam with statistics to the side (always available):
list of other ships in port that you may see in the port cam pic:
The ship: http://www.ncl.com/fleet/09/deckplans.htm
Overview calendar of our ship, Norwegian Sun: http://www.cruisecal.com/dnn/default.aspx?tabid=311
Ketchikan Fishing with Northern Lights:
Cost booking independently: $119 plus $7 tax plus $10 fishing license plus $10 king salmon tag (7:00-12:00... but our's kept us until after 1:00 since we all had time)
Comparable excursion with NCL:
"Ketchikan Sportfishing" (5 hours) $180 (plus book specifies extra $20 in license/tag)
Maximum of six persons total (plus captain)
Price difference for fishing: about $60 per person
I went along for the sightseeing / eagles for a rate of $60 (total).
Comparable excursion with NCL:
"Lighthouse & Eagles Excursion" for 3 hours at $90 (although we didn't see lighthouses when fishing with Ken - which I was most curious about eagles)
Juneau - City Tour including Mendenhall Glacier:
Cost of city tour including Mendenhall Glacier when booking as a walk-up at the pier:
$20 each (2 hours)
Comparable excursion with NCL:
"Juneau City & Mendenhall Glacier" (3 hours) for $45 each
Skagway Scenic Drive into Yukon Territory:
Car Rental: www.avis.com
Skagway Mile-By-Mile Detail:
Lunch on this drive: http://www.yukonalaska.com/buns/
(HUGE sandwiches - split one!)
Our cost (four per car, including car, taxes, insurance, and gas):
$30 each (plus lunch)
We rented car shortly after 8:00, on road as a group by 8:30, returned 2:50 for National Park Service tour (free), then back towards Dyea for overlook since we ran out of time earlier - so approximately 7 hours
Comparable excursion with NCL:
"Yukon Territory Drive" - 5.5 hours - $89 each (plus any food)
Skagway National Park Service Walking Tour of Skagway
3:00 PM Walking Tour - Free - 50 minutes
Can tip USNPS
Signed up when opening at 8:00 AM before scenic drive to Emerald Lake (max of 30 per walking tour; obtain free ticket early to ensure a spot)
Comparable excursion with NCL:
"Skagway Street Car" - 2 hours - $41 each (we did see these at the scenic overlook on the way to Dyea, which you cannot easily get to by foot)
Wrangell Walking Tour (our cost: free)
We took about 2.5 hours to see Visitor Center, Totem Park, scenic church, Shakes Island, and Petroglyphs Beach
Could have paid about $3 each for admission to museum at Visitor Center and about $3 each for admission to Chief Shakes house. Hubby's parents did go in Chief Shakes house, which they found informative.
Wrangell - Visitor Info:
Wrangell - National Park Service:
Comparable excursion with NCL:
"Wrangell City Highlights" (2 hours) $35 each
icon in brochure depicts "walking over relatively flat terrain... comfortable shoes are recommended"