Norwegian Sun Cruise Review by punkincc: NCL Sun to Alaska Roundtrip Vancouver May 2013
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NCL Sun to Alaska Roundtrip Vancouver May 2013
We are a mid 60s couple who enjoy cruising and staying fairly active. We cruise 1-2 times a year and after trying most of the mainstream cruise lines, we found that NCL was the best fit for us for it's casual, relaxed atmosphere, and most of all for the wonderful crews who are genuinely happy people who enjoy their jobs and interacting with their passengers. This is something that can't be faked or replaced by cold formality. This is a top down commitment, and NCL has some of the most involved senior management in the business, including the ship's captain, who spent much time at various gatherings interacting with the passengers.
We wanted to fly into Seattle to take advantage of our Southwest miles, but wanted to cruise roundtrip out of Vancoiver for the Inside Passage Itinerary and time constraits. We chose the Monday 5-13 first Alaska cruise for the Sun. We flew into Seattle on Friday am and went directly to our hotel, the Hilton Arctic Club at 3rd and Cherry St. This More is a historic building which was once an exclusive men's club back in the day. Pictures of the members still line the walls in the lobby. We were able to check in early and were upgraded to a beautiful room with a stone terrace overlooking the city. If traveling with children, beware it is possible to climb onto dangerous ledges from the terrace. A French press coffee pot was a nice touch. We had a free breakfast in the Juno restaurant, and ate lunch there once. We stayed here twice more during this trip, once upon our return from Vancouver before Victoria, and again pre flight home. They stored the bulk of our luggage during our 2 nights in Victoria. We were upgraded each time, and only once did we have to wait for our room, and then just long enough to have lunch. The Polar Bar in the lobby is great. We missed happy hour, but had a drink at one of the many overstuffed leather couches and chairs. There is a fireplace and billiards table as well. We walked twice to Pike's Market and along the waterfront area once. A lucky find was the Metropolitan Bar and Grill on the way back from Pikes. This is an upscale restaurant with tuxedoed host and white coat clad barmen, but with a very lively and fun bar with happy hour from 3:00 to 6:00. Go early. They were packed. Appys are half price and our Mesquite grilled filet skewers for $6 turned into dinner. Check out pics of celebs and sports stars who have been there in the lobby along with a display case of some fine looking steaks.
We took the Saturday 7:40 am Amtrak Cascades train to Vancouver. The train station is a 5min
cab ride away. This was our first Amtrak and we were very pleased. Coach seats were comfy and roomy and we made sure to be in line for checkin early so as to get seats on the left side of the train. This route is right on the water and the views are wonderful. You could not get any closer. Eagles too numerous to count. We arrived in Vancouver at 11:40am and took a cab to the Pan Pacific hotel at Canada Place.
It is a world class hotel and located atop the cruise terminal and within walking distance of most attractions. It is pricey, bur well worth the money for convenience and those out of this world views of the bay and mountains beyond. We booked a cruise package directly with the hotel which included transfers of our luggage directly to the ship, not just to the dock porters, and a buffet breakfast which is about $30 per person if on your own. We were able to check in immediately and were upgraded from a King City View to a Harbor View room with views of the harbor and mountains and a portion of Stanley Park. That afternoon we took the Capilano suspension Bridge free shuttle right outside our hotel door. The park was great and kids would love it. Back at the hotel, we went to the outside terrace for drinks and watched several cruise ship's leave port and numerous sea planes take off and land in the bay as well. We then strolled down the sea wall to the Coal harbor area where we had a drink at The Lift restaurant but decided to pass on dinner there due to the pricey and somewhat strange menu ( camel burgers and ostrich ). We walked back to Carderos and enjoyed a great dinner.
Woke the following am to watch some of the cruise ship's come in. The Sun actually turned and backed into it's berth directly below our room. After a great buffet, we called the bellman who collected our luggage. We took the elevator down to the parking garage level and walked across into the terminal. Lines through security were not bad and we were able to check in at the line designated for past guests and then were directed to the Suites passengers waiting area where we met our concierge with one other couple. We were then walked onto the ship bypassing long lines of boarding passengers. The suite perks are another of the reasons we love NCL when we are luck enough to be able to book a suite. This was our second suite in 4 cruises with NCL. We were taken directly to the Il Adagio restaurant for lunch. This restaurant is open exclusively for suite passengers for breakfast and lunch. Let me say that this restaurant is the most beautiful I have seen anywhere and with a great view. It is a very long, but narrow room with table for 2 along the floor to ceiling windows. Across the isle are elevated large curved banquets for larger parties and facing the windows. Everyone has an unobstructed view and it has a cozy romantic atmosphere.
We ate here for dinner on the last night as we sailed the inside passage and I will never forget it.
Our room was available after lunch and we found our way to the aft and 9276 SE category aft facing corner Penthouse. Generous living room with credenza, bedroom with king bed, 2 closets, bank of drawers, vanity table, tub with shower, 2nd shower stall, water closet and separate door leading into entry hall. A slider in each room let to the balcony which goes the length of both rooms. Very wide and could accommodate more than just the 2 loungers and 2 chairs. We were able to upgrade from an aft facing mini suite a few weeks pre cruise when prices dropped for a mere $90 per person. We met our butler Teresa, who I began to call Miss Sunshine, before the cruise was over. She delivered all restaurant menus at our request and it was great to have white tablecloth service in our suite for the 1 breakfast and dinner we ordered. She and the room steward took care of a pillow issue quickly when I discovered I had a feather pillow allergy. We were able to book dinner reservations with the concierge for our special dinner at Le Bistro, but otherwise just went freestyle, playing it by ear. It is really not necessary to have reservations for dinner in most cases. We were always able to walk right in anywhere. Another great suite perk is the priority walk off in ports and disembarcation day escortedmby the concierge. This can save considerable time when meeting tours, etc. Dinner that night in one of the main dining rooms for steak and lobster. All other dinners were in the specialty restaurants as we had $425 in on board credits between those granted by NCL when booking, and then by the TA to whom we transferred the booking pre cruise.
This cruise differed from others we have been on where we spent considerable time in the various bars and lounges, just relaxing, chatting, and seeing numerous shows and entertainers scattered throughout the ship. We knew from the outset that Alaska was going to be the focus of this cruise. It was very difficult to tear ourselves away from that balcony. We saw only one show, and enjoyed it very much. We went to the lounge the night of the White Hot Party and saw part of an act and then stayed for the White Hot which was as energetic as always. We did go to a martini tasting but it was cancelled as there were only 4 of us. The bartender, Bang Bang, made it up to us, by 2 for 1s, martini juggling and his sense of humor. We were joined by a 5th person and had a great time watching the scenery go by and chatting. This was the first NCL cruise of the 5th person and she told us it would not be her last. I asked her what it was about NCL that she liked. Her response, "I can't put my finger on it, but it's something about the staff", pointing at the bartender, saying "like this guy, he remembered my name immediately". I knew exactly what she meant. I hope someday we can do a different itinerary on the Sun and take in more she has to offer.
Our Cruise Critic meet and greet was held the next morning at 11:00 in Las Ramblas tapas bar. It was attended by all senior staff including the captain. The Latitudes Party for past passengers was that afternoon and was well attended, but I did not care for the venue. Impossible to circulate and I would skip it in future. The Suite Guests Cocktail Party was held later in the afternoon in the forward observation lounge and again was attended by all senior staff. We had a great conversation with Captain Tommy Stensrud about the inside passage. A cruise critic friend reported he was also at the Gold and Platinum party (we are only currently Silver, alas ) and was the last of the senior staff to leave, after circulating through the room, chatting with each group. Also reported was that both the HD and Food & Bev Dir assisted in seating passengers one night
in one of the main dining rooms when everyone apparently decided to dine at the same time after a long port day. Just an example of the outstanding customer service we have always encountered. While onboard, we had dinner at Le Bistro, Il adagio, Moderno Churriscaria, East Meets West Steakhouse and once in the Seven Seas aft main dining room We found the food to
be good to excellent.
Our ports were Juneau from 2:00 to 10:00 pm; Skagway 7:00am to 8:15 pm; Ketchikan 9:00 to 6:00pm and of course Glacier Bay which we enjoyed from our aft deck with the TV tuned to the public address system in order to hear the commentary from the Park staff who boarded. We had the bay to ourselves and the ship turned slowly twice, so we viewed the big Marjorie Glacier twice and then for am good long time as we slowly sailed out of the Bay. The sound of the glacier was amazing and we got several calveings on film. We did a tour in each port, with the highlight being the 5 Glacier tour in Juneau. And the views of the inside passage on the last sea day are not to be missed.
Disembarkation was a snap. We did not even need the concierge, just walked off, quickly through the lines and turned in customs forms. Did not even need to show passports. Collected luggage and walked across to the hotel where our room was ready at the Pan Pacific. That day we did a hop on/off tour of Stanley Park and Granville Island where we walked around the vendors. Such food, you have never seen! We had lunch at the Sandbar, high up under the Granville St bridge with great views. Dinner that night in the Cascades Bar at the hotel for great burgers which were very reasonable due to a game night special. Early train the next am back to Seattle and the Arctic Club.
The following am we boarded the Victoria Clipper ferry to Victoria. We sat in the very front of the lower level for the great views and it may have been usually rough that day. We were going up and down like a roller coaster at times and I came close to getting sick, arriving in Victoria just in time. Our hotel, the Inn at Laurel Point was a short scenic walk from the ferry. Practically next door. This is a wonderful property, sitting on a point overlooking the inner harbor and the sea wall with the downtown one direction and Fisherman's Wharf the other. Fantastic large room, luxury bath and large balcony looking over the pond and beautiful plantings with the lawn and sea wall and inner harbor beyond. Don't miss the chocolate chip French toast with fruit compote in the restaurant. We took the CVS shuttle in front of the Empress Hotel to Butchart Gardens, a must see. Dinner at Belmiros restaurant was great. Just walked around the next day. Returned to Seattle the following morning. Made our first visit to the Space Needle and flight home was the next am. Arrived home exhausted but with memories to last a lifetime. Less
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Cabin review: SE9276 Penthouse with Balcony
We were in an aft-facing Penthouse suite, category SE, 9276, which is a corner suite on the starboard side. The suite includes a living room with couch, 2 chairs and a table which doubles as a dining room table for in suite dining. Large credenza against one wall with flat screen TV, 4 cup coffee maker, refrig, dishes, etc. Bedroom off the living room with king bed, closet with shelving on either side, small credenza with flat screen. Door from bedroom into bath which goes straight through to a second door off the entry hall. The bath includes an area with vanity and mirror, closet with safe, and a built in chest of drawers. In the bath area, sink with plenty of storage both above and below. Bathtub with shower, as well as shower stall with glass door and separate toilet compartment. Sliding doors in each room lead out to the balcony which goes the length of both the living room and bedroom. We loved this balcony for Alaska. 2 lounge and two other chairs. Very spacious. The only negative with the aft rooms are the occasional loud vibration when the ship uses the thrusters when maneuvering into port, or a couple times while in narrow areas of the inside passage. These were brief, and never disturbed our rest or enjoyment of the cabin. We felt no movement in the aft, but we had very smooth seas the entire trip. It was very quiet there and not far from the aft elevators, although we usually walked further to the mid elevators to the atrium area.