The Sun was built in 2001 and dry-docked for remodel in 2011. The ship appears fresh and good looking. It is a smaller ship that holds about 1950 passengers. The cruise was a transitional cruise from LA to Vancouver B.C.
We booked a mini-suite at the aft end of the ship. We have had good experiences in the past in ships looking out the back of the vessel, as these rooms seem a bit larger than a equivalent room on the sides of the vessel. Cabin 8279 was indeed about 30 square feet larger than a similar mini-suite, and the space was in the width of the cabin. It was not as long and narrow as a typical room. In all ways except one, it was a lovely cabin.
But that single flaw, made us complain to the hotel desk. The room was directly above the Stardust theater, and when there was a performance (or a rehearsal), the room vibrated and the sounds traveled up into our cabin. We often like to nap in the afternoon (we are early risers). Now I don't know what other passengers do when something like this occurs, but we sought some relief, and by good fortune, and a willingness to please its passengers, the hotel offered us the single other mini-suite that was vacant (via a no-show)! Cabin 1015 was the typical mini-suite, so it was a bit smaller, but it was not quiet either! It was under the outdoor deck which also was annoying as we were trying to fall asleep. So, in the end, we returned to our original room, asked the desk for the times when the theater would be used, and took the best of the possible choices. The ship should have willingly and voluntarily offered some kind of compensation for this annoyance, but it was only after we complained strongly that a credit of $50 was offered. Since this ship is a decade old, many passengers over the years, in cabins including the 30 or so cabins along the back of the ship and down the hallways must have had to put up with this. I would avoid these cabins (8063-8079 and 8263-8279) aft when making a booking, unless this type of sound and vibrations do not disturb you.
Norwegian ships are a favorite of ours for a couple of reasons. They have both the large traditional dining rooms and Lido, and they have 6 or so specialty restaurants, that you book (for a reasonable cover charge) just like a normal restaurant. It is not hard to get a table just for two. Also, they never require a tux or even a suit jacket. This saves a lot in packing. You certainly can get dressed up if you want, but it is never necessary (they do have one night a week that is a voluntary formal night).
This particular ship had a somewhat unusual layout. There were more hallways and passages that were a bit out of the way. This provided spaces that not every passenger would even necessarily find! (See if you can find the remote Tapas Bar for example)! So it was a bit easier to escape the crowds and discover a nook or some comfortable chairs for reading.
Since we had cruised with Norwegian before, there was a reception with the captain on the first day at sea. Introductions were made, free wine and rum punch was served, as well as an assortment of canapes and appetizers. About a dozen door prizes were awarded to lucky passengers.
The first port was San Francisco; a city in which we have spend much time in the past. For something interesting to us, we set out by cab for a Dominican church in Pacific Heights. (yes, we are interested in the variety of Roman Catholic Religious orders!) The church was enormous, many different altars, an ambo, a true cross shrine, a St Jude shrine, and it was connected to the Dominican Friary which also served as the novitiate for the Western Province of Dominican Friars. We decided to walk back to see some parts of the city which we never have been in. Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn, and a long walk turned into a very long walk. Eventually we found our way to Fisherman's wharf and our ship which was docked in Pier 35.
Next up was Astoria Washington, a small town at the mouth of the Columbia River. Used to be a center for Salmon canning, but the Salmon are now endangered, and the town is currently an exporter of wood (mainly fir and cedar) and potatoes. The nautical background of the town is captured in its Maritime Museum, which is a simple but satisfying presentation of the ships, men, industries and waterways of Astoria.
The Drini Daisy Bosnian restaurant right on Commercial Street is an excellent choice for lunch. Quirky and delicious, with real Pita (hint; they are made with filo dough) a centerpiece. Not to mention about a dozen Balkan beers and even more wines. One waiter and the chef-owner are the only staff.
We were impressed with the way the town turns out for the cruise ships. Everyone seemed to have a role. They only get about 22 ships a year....so they are an economic shot in the arm for this small town of only 10000.
Our stop in Victoria brought us to this beautiful provincial capital for a second time. Since we had seen the Parliament building (Unicameral legislature for the interested), we ended up across the street at the Royal BC Museum. A great museum of local natural and human-specific history. Although there was an IMAX theater there also, we did not go to a screening. High quality gift shop and a snack at the cafe added to the enjoyment. The docking area is about a 20 minute walk or a $10 cab drive from the Inner Harbor area.
Nanaimo BC is the second most populous town on Vancouver Island. It is a rainy town, and indeed it was raining during much of our visit. The natural beauty of the small coastal towns of Vancouver Island is well know, and this town lived up to the reputation. Both here and in Astoria, the town itself was exceptionally gracious in our arrival. A free shuttle bus was supplied by the town with tourguide to get us from the port into the town (both the new and the old town). The waterfront is very nice and well developed, and we enjoyed relaxing in one of its coffee shops.
The first production show of the cruise was Encore a musical revue of six Broadway shows in the last decade or so. (Mamma Mia, In the Heights, Swing, Movin' On, Wicked, and Jersey boys). The singers and dancers were excellent and the show was a success.
The second night featured a ventriloquist, Kenny Byrd. (I didn't think they existed anymore). Clever use of the audience, two of which posed as his dummies!. Mr Bird (a crow) was my favorite though.
Third night featured an all female production number called Shout: The Mod Musical. This is the first time in 10 cruises that we had already seen the show, which is a highly entertaining musical revue of the 60's. This cast did an excellent job in all 5 of the transitional roles that women experienced during that era. Audience loved it!
[In the Atrium before the show, the House Band was playing some very groovy Dixieland]
The magician Rick Green filled the forth night. I can never understand how any of these illusions are done (even after watching all those 'Mask Magician Reveals All' show!!). His illusion were good but his stage presence was not so good....I don't like a entertainer that has to beg the audience for their approbation. Have some class dude!
[After the show, we listened to some Broadway, mainly Phantom of the Opera music played by a duo of piano and violin....a very soothing preparation of a good night's sleep.]
On the fifth night, the production piece Rock You Tonight was performed. This was a musical review of very high energy Rock music from the sixties and seventies. The dancers again proved themselves as tireless and talented. If you are of the boomer generation, you will remember most of these tunes fondly.
The last night, George Solomon entertained us with a one-man vocal show (accompanied by the excellent show band). What a skillful way he worked the room (like a good Vegas act). From Tom Jones to the Drifters, George plied his trade with a wide warm smile. The crowd love him and so did we.
Finally, the International Crew Show showcased the talents of some of the crew members "mostly on the cruise directors entertainment staff. We have seen many of these before, but this production was notable. The dancing couples (one gay, one straight), was mildly subversive and amusing. The one-man poetic reading about the latte boy and stalker chick was excellent. The 'Fountains' finale (which we had seen on another cruise) was hilarious as usual.
A Word about this cruise director, Richard Malic: What a bundle of energy and enthusiasm! The cruise directors tend to be American (at least on our nine previous cruises, so this young Filipino, was a welcome change and what a job he did. Not only was his presence engaging, but he put together some very fine entertainment. I think I enjoyed the singers/dancers and the outside contractors as much as any cruise since my first Celebrity Cruise in the Baltic. The whole program was ambitions, not Disney-esque, but a lot of fun
The former Cagney's Steakhouse has been converted into EAST MEETS WEST. Our dinners included the 18 ox Bone-in Ribeye and a 10 oz Bison Strip Steak. Very good. The restaurant was not busy at all, early on the second night.
On the forth night, we dined at LE BISTRO, the French restaurant hidden on the 12th deck. Another fine meal of Escargot, Four Cones, Bouillabaisse, and Roast Duck. We love the ease and privacy of these restaurants. It feels like discovering a secret eating establishment of some side street in NYC!
Moderno is a Brazilian steak and chop house with a very unfamiliar style. After a sophisticated salad and soup bar, the 10 or so meat courses are brought out one by one and you can take as much or as little as you want. Absolutely delicious beef and lamb steaks, chops and ribs were served on a spit and slided off onto you awaiting tongs and onto you plate. All the sides were served in separate containers (beans, rice, mashed potatoes, fried banana). Since we eat a ketogenic diet (No carbs), all this meat was heaven. Also, the papaya cream desert was extraordinary! So scrumptious.
Il Adagio is the last of the specialty restaurants, and the least expensive (only $15 surcharge per person). Eating Italian is difficult if you are on a low carb diet, but fortunately, they had several excellent non-pasta entrees. We had the Ossobucco (braised pork shank) and the Sea Bass. The restaurant itself is tucked into the side of the ship, deck 5 middle, but it is down a stairwell which I guess means its on deck 4! You can not see into the restaurant from anyplace on the ship!.
Don't Expect To Find These on Norwegian:
1. A full room service menu. Norwegian offers 24 hours service, but a limited selection.
2. Breakfast room service is also limited. There are no hot foods on the menu.
3. Want a good night turn down and chocolate on your pillow?....no chocolate.
4. On some cruise lines, you get an early morning TV show with the days highlights. Not on Norwegian. Only the daily newsletter to summarize the activities.
5. The paper notes NCL uses to retrieve wine are clumsy and easily lost.
6. No afternoon Tea Service (in case you haven't gotten enough tasties)
7. There were no free ship-provided shuttles to the downtown areas as with some cruise lines.
8. No DVD player in the room.. leave your Netflix at home.
9. The in-room restocking of frig is dependent on filling out the form properly. On some cruise lines, they just look and automatically restock (Charging you of course). NCL has a less timely method that results in the frig running out of your favorite drinks for a day.