From September 16-23, 2013, I sailed on the Norwegian Sun from Vancouver to Los Angeles with my 90-year-old father. To give you some background about us for perspective on this review, this was my 14th cruise, and my father’s 3rd. I’ve sailed on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America, Princess, Costa, Carnival and Uniworld, while Dad has only sailed on Royal Caribbean. Alaska has been my main and Dad’s only destination – I’ve also sailed in the Caribbean (3 sailings) and European rivers (1 sailing).
Ours was a last-minute booking that came about when the 9-night West Coast cruise that we had booked on the Celebrity Millennium was cancelled due to propulsion problems that required a month-long drydock. The Norwegian Sun itinerary, though 2 nights shorter, was the only one that allowed us to keep the flights we had booked, and our post-cruise vacation, intact. The initial cost of the Norwegian cruise was just over half what the Celebrity one had been – $1,827 for the two of us, vs $3,573 – though with Celebrity the fare included a Premium Beverage package (unlimited drinks of any kind) which would have cost $700 with Norwegian. We booked similar Verandah cabins on both.
With the vast range of options available in the way of cruise ships today, there is an equally vast range of passenger types. Each has their own likes and dislikes, and their own priorities when it comes to deciding what makes a good cruise holiday. For me in particular, but for Dad as well, the Norwegian Sun was not a good fit. We both found the food in particular to be lacking. Most of it ranged from mediocre to inedible, and as I mentioned above, even the specialty restaurant we went to was nothing special. After several poor meals, I thought that a clubhouse sandwich and corn chowder was safe for lunch, but they were both very poor. The only really good meals we had during the cruise were the 3 that we went ashore for, to neighbourhood pubs.
The onboard activities were also a disappointment, but as many people got really excited by the bean bag toss, I was clearly just on the wrong ship :) I’ve tried to imagine if any of the activities would have been of interest if I’d been with my wife instead of my father, and the answer is still “no”.
The positive aspects of the cruise were:
- the Norwegian Sun is a truly beautiful ship, both inside and out;
- the ship was spotlessly clean, and staff were at the door of every eating venue offering hand sanitizer;
- service was almost universally excellent (there were 2 minor exceptions, but everyone can have a bad day);
- the itinerary was very good (Astoria was high on my list of places to see);
- we were on a cruise ship – how bad can that be?? :)
To get as close as I can to an apples-to-apples comparison, the per-person, per-day cost of the Celebrity Millennium, which my wife and I sailed on with 2 other couples last year and really enjoyed, was going to be just over $198 with a drink package. The same cabin, same drink package cost of the Norwegian Sun was just over $180. While a substantial price difference will help some people (yes, including me) with their decision on which ship to sail on, I doubt that that difference would influence anyone.
So there you have it. It was my first and last cruise with Norwegian, but I hope that what you’ve seen and heard in this review will help you decide whether or not you’d like to “Sail Like a Norwegian”.