We are a family of four, with kids ages 11 and 9. We are Platinum NCL cruisers and love freestyle dining as well as NCL's two bedroom suites. We chose this cruise purely for the itinerary, knowing the ship would be older and not one we would ordinarily choose. The Sun offers no two bedroom suites so we booked a pair of the very few connecting cabins that exist on the Sun. We knew what we would be giving up of the suite life and were okay with that for the amazing itinerary.
While we expected an older ship without the bells and whistles of Epic, Pearl and the several other NCL ships we have sailed, we were disappointed in the ship. The main problem was a HUGE one which had a big impact on our cruise. Our connecting cabins, 9264 and 9265 were right by the aft stairwell. This area smelled of sewage from the minute we embarked until we disembarked. The smell permeated our rooms as well as many public areas in the aft areas of the ship, such as the theater, the entrance to the main dining room and even the buffet at times. It was disgusting and really had a negative impact on our cruise. I cannot understand why I have never seen anyone complain about this before in reviews. It was extremely noticeable on our sailing. It is reason enough that I would never sail the Sun again. Other than the smell, we found the staff to be the most inexperienced of any cruise we've been on, though they were polite and tried their best. The balcony cabin was spacious for two and had ample storage and we had a lot of stuff! Even the bathroom had plenty of storage. The only problem was the shower was tiny. Shaving legs in there was somewhere between a comedy routine and a hazard. My husband and I both found the bed to be hard and uncomfortable. The kids did not complain. Our cabin steward was just as good as any we've had.
Aboard the ship, when we were not enjoying the amazing scenery and wildlife, we spent time doing cruise activities like crafts, scavenger hunt, trivia, etc. Krazy Kevin was our favorite. My kids don't like going to Kids Clubs so we also used the game room for board games. The weather was even warm enough for the kids to swim on two different days. We went to the show the first night and found it so cheezy that nobody wanted to go to another show except the magician and the cruise staff show. We all enjoyed those. Richard, the cruise director was a dud.
As far as dining, we love Moderno. It is our favorite NCL restaurant. It was the best of the week. We loved the setting and view in Il Adagio but the food was just okay. The steakhouse was not worth the $30 cover. Moderno is better in every possible way. My son's filet was so overcooked that we sent it back. We ate in Four Seasons a couple times. It was average food. What was strange is the two times we ate there it was FREEZING. The a/c was on so high that many had jackets on. We did not go back for a third try. We usually like NCL buffets but this one is small and not well laid out. It also seemed to have fewer choices than on other ships. The best bet is to eat in the Great Outdoors, weather permitting or Moderno for breakfast.
Now, onto the actual reason we took this cruise: the amazing itinerary! We cruised Alaska round trip from Seattle on the Pearl a few years ago and wanted to try a more in depth Alaska itinerary so we chose the Sun Northbound and added on the 4 night Denali Alyeska cruise tour. We were very lucky with our weather and our nature. Throughout water was calm as glass until the very last day. The scenery is breathtaking. On the first sea day in the late afternoon we saw maybe a dozen or so whales right from our balcony including breaches, pectoral slaps and many tails. It was AMAZING! The entire way up we saw hundreds of salmon jumping out of the water. We also saw many sea otters. Do NOT forget your binoculars! Glacier Bay was just as spectacular as I had remembered from our cruise on the Pearl. What I did not expect was how blown away I was by Hubbard. It was breathtaking. We were so lucky with calm waters that we were able to get very close.
We booked all our excursions through NCL and they were all excellent. In Ketchikan we did a geocaching excursion, in Juneau we did the Mendenhall Glacier and Whale watch combo, and in Skagway we did the Adventure Course/ Zip Line. (I cannot recall the precise name of each excursion.) The scenery and tour guides were terrific on all the excursions. We watched salmon running in Ketchikan and at Mendenhall. We saw many humpbacks very close, about 50 sea lions and even an orca! We were so very lucky with our weather and nature spotting! We even saw a harbor seal poke his head out of the water with a salmon in mouth right next to the dock in Skagway.
Post cruise, we did the 4 night Denail/Alyeska tour. It was excellent with terrific guides and ease of all luggage and transportation taken care of. I would definitely recommend it. The Alyeska resort is beautiful. The bus ride to Denali is LONG but well worth it. We saw a moose right by the road on the way. We stopped at an Iditarod musher's camp on the way up and that was terrific to see the dogs and hear about the race. My kids fell in love with the puppies. The guides are excellent at giving information about the wildlife and culture. Our tour included the Tundra Wilderness Tour which goes 62 miles into Denali Park. I cannot imagine going all the way to Denali and NOT doing this tour. Yes, it is 8 hours on a bus, but really the only way to see the wildlife. We were so fortunate to see a few grizzlies including a mama and two cubs who walked DIRECTLY past our bus after grazing on berries. They were so close that you could almost reach out the window and touch them. We saw caribou, moose and sheep also. We even got a clear enough day to see Mt. McKinley. Denali is spectacular. We were lucky, I hear, to be there POST mosquito season. Also, we seemed to be there at the peak time for wildlife. (We were there mid-August.) The glass dome train ride back to Anchorage was also a treat. We had a tour group of less than 30, but a whole train car that seats 80 to ourselves.
All in all, a spectacular vacation on a less than spectacular ship.