15 night Panama canal cruise: Norwegian Sun Cruise Review by rayjitsu
Overall Member Rating
15 night Panama canal cruise
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
We stayed at Quality Inn at the international airport because they have free shuttle 24 hrs. We arrived at Miami 11:30pm and pick up a hotel phone at the airport to call the hotel. Then we went to the front of the airport and watch the hotel shuttle to come by. Waive your hand and they will stop in front of you. The hotel is clean, comfortable and free breakfast. Then we took the shuttle back to airport to get on the More transfer shuttle to the port which is run by NCL. (Quality Inn has its own shuttle for $10 usf.). The shuttle stopped in front of the ship and the porter take cared the luggage for us( just make sure you have a proper tags on your luggage.).
The embarkment was very smooth( half hour) as we used the latitude member line which is for repeat passenger.
The ship is not new, but has been recently refurbished, so it does not feel like an old ship. It is a 1,800 passenger ship vs the new one 4,000 passenger. AS many cruisers actually compliant about the new ships being too big, too crowd and don't feel like being in a ship.
The Sun is great in many way, very flexible in dinning or seeing the shows, no booking needed. Even the ship was full, we never experience any line ups at all. We did eat our dinner at 5:30pm so we could watch the 7pm show.
All stuffs work their best to make us feel comfortable and the cooking of the food was well prepared. That is because we saw the top restaurant management officers walking around all the time to make sure everything is done right.
Food: I ate mostly fresh fruits and salmon in the morning, but their breads are very good. In lunch, they serve Calamari in the restaurant, Seven Sea at the back of the ship. I also like their fish and chip and salads. For dinner, the paid French restaurant, the only one we tried, was very good. For evening comfort food, go to the Sport bar and order the fish and chip free, highly recommended. There was two lobster dinner nights and the lobster was cook just right, the best of all our cruise ship dinners. It tasted just right in term or texture and taste. They had a beer battered deep fried fish and chip in one lunch, it was so good as it tasted light and tasty like the good Fish and chip should. Dessert was decent.
Cabin-10th floor on the back of the ship, best location ever. One stair walk to the buffle and close to the Seven sea restaurant at 5th fl and theater at 6th floor. Not sure if I could do any other location in the future cruise because of this. The balcony was very good except it would collect water when rain, you have to phone the quest service and they will have people pump the water out for you( the only short coming of the ship, but not enough to brother us.) On a sunny hot day, the balcony was a heaven. Very quiet and private.
Ports: Cartagena- we took a mini van tour($20us per person) available outside the port. Very safe and the tour guide was very good. This tour is very standard: it covers the monasty, the market, the beach,the Wall city(including the gold museum and jewell factory, and very little time on the famous fortress. It was good, my recommendation is to see the oldest church, Igleasia de Santos Domingo. This is not the famous church, it is the one which not allow to photograph and located at the Santo Domingo square. This church could easily missed by tourist as it is not well mentioned. However, it is the most beautiful church in the whole cruise and I am not even a Christian.
Panama Canal, we had a bonus, our ship was sailing next to NCL Jewell so we could watch their ship going thru different chambers. Go the the front of the top deck first to watch the entry( be early, it gets crowded). Then go down to the 6th floor the walking deck and watch the next ship going thru the chambers.
Puntanarenas- Get up early and watch the port from the distant, very pretty.( recommend for all ports excepted Puerto Vallarta). Just got out and walk around the town. Very safe. The town is underdeveloped in term of tourism, but it is real. I enjoyed the walking, very clean but old.
Puerto Chiapas- this port is very new and not ready for cruise ship. We walk thru the tourist center( two tour info officers for 4,000 tourist, not much help either.) We went out to take the $10 shuttle to town but long line up and we would have to wait more than one and half hours for the shuttle(10 shuttles all together for 4,000 tourist). So we walk out the port and saw a white local mini van bus. It cost us $1.50 per person to the town center. It is an old Van and full of people(14 of us). The old Van went thru much of local area( bumpy road) before it stopped at the bus station near the center of the town. It is an old town and again, real, where the local lives. We enjoyed the walk(very safe( however,always take caution against pick pocket anywhere you go.) Then 4 of us took a taxi, total of $15 to go back to the port. One of us speak a little Spanish and asked we could do a tour of the beaches near the port. The taxi driver agreed and never ask for more money. He took us to all the scenic points, even negotiated with a military guard to get us into their beach. At the end, we paid him $35( tips for his time spend
on us). If you don't speak Spanish, write up what you want on a piece paper in Spanish ahead of time as most driver don't speak English, but they are very friendly and glad to please you.
Puerto Vallerta- Walmart located just in front of the port, pricy. We took a bus(.50 us) to the old town and walk around. Quite interesting if you have not visited. Somebody book the ship's John Houston property tour(a beach away from the town) and enjoyed. This tour was not offered outside the ship.
Huatuco- beautiful entry. I took a $20 boat tour on a small boat which covers one hour of beach time in Entrega, beautiful snorkeling bay, I brought my own mask and fins for this. Then the boat took us around the local coast line, very beautiful. If you like the sea, this tour is highly recommended. This is my second visit to Huatuco, so I was prepared. If you want to go to Entrega beach, the taxi is only $5, standard rate. I have been the town before, not much there. The church is ok, nothing like that of Cartagena. If you take the boat, make sure you take down the boat number at the front. As after it drop down the passingers on the beach, the boat goes out so other boat could come in, they all look the same. The drivers are very good and they will come back for you, just in case, take down the number to ease your mind.
Cabos San Lucas- beautiful entry and beautiful port for photography, lot of pelicans. At first, we took the local water taxi tour to the famous lands End Arch, beautiful, and very good for $10/person. Interesting facts from the boat driver at the same time. Then we walk off the port then keep going to the right to the Meddian beach. The walk is very easy and comfortable, very safe. We were offered Parasailing for $35 and we took it. My first. The hardest part was getting on the boat that took us out to the actual speeding boat. I have no problem getting on and off the transport boat, but I did saw some woman having some difficulty getting on and off as she did not want to get wet. Once we are on the parasailing boat, rest is very easy, much easier than I expect. One took off from the deck at the back of the boat and land on the same deck after. we just sit on our bum and than the Para suit took me up. It is like sitting at large fairest wheel and enjoy the scenery and it was beautiful. The bonus was one get to enjoy the boat ride as the other guest take their turn(12min/person). This is well worth the price of $30. When the ship, it would went around the Arch, but it is not a close up scene like the boat tour.
Disembarkment went very smooth as we carried our own luggages. Hop onto the shuttle in front of the port and went to LA airport.
Entertainment: Very good overall, hard working dancing team(15 performers). Then there is the jugglers(two time world champions) who also offer free lessons, a comedian, David Nastsier, who was funny and also teach us how to use laugh to overcome life difficulties, a magican(amazing card trick on the second show), a banjo player and hypnotist who offered very good entertainments.
Tips: lower your expectation. Life is like a mirror, what you receive is what you project out. If you cause misery to other, that is exact what you will get back at the end, Howard Hugh and few other famous entertainer would verify that only if they are alive. (One thing that I like about the ship, it is full of old passenger(70+) who are very well seasoned cruisers. They know how to use the ship to have a good time, very polite and have many life stories to tell.) Less
StarBreeze Panama Canal
Island Princess Panama Canal
Overall, A Good Trip