I chose the Norwegian Sun because of the Alaska Ports of Call, but was most impressed by the service provided by the staff. The Crew Director's staff appeared to be everywhere and were extremely cordial and welcoming. At the end of the cruise, most of them recognized me and always made a friendly remark indicating that they remembered something about me. The wait staff ranged from pleasant to phenomenal. I ate dinner at the Seven Seas restaurant every evening and the buffet in the morning and afternoon on sea days. After a couple of days, the Seven Seas hostess knew my name despite never making a reservation or doing anything notable. Some of the restaurant staff in the Seven Seas and Garden Buffet eagerly greeted me even though they were not directly waiting on me at the time. The restaurant ambiance was great with ocean views. Despite the earlier reviews, the passengers I spoke to all agreed that the food was excellent and had ample variety.
Housekeeping was also very attentive and followed through when necessary. For instance, I had a defective light and Francis ensured that the electrician replaced it. The cabin was ample size, but badly needed revamping. The sofa appeared worn and worse was badly soiled. The drawers had particles in them which I decided to clean myself. The bathroom was very small. I weigh less than 100 pounds and banged my knee twice.
Although the ship needs updating, the outside and inside décor are still vibrant and appealing. Public areas were always kept clean and crew could always be seen washing the deck and vacuuming interior carpeting.
The entertainment was excellent. I attended all the evening performances. I especially enjoyed Chris Alpine the comedian and marveled how he could appeal to all ages, even 5 year olds. Chris Alpine along with another Juggler/comedian had very funny facial expressions and antics as well as adult innuendos. The Three Divas were great and the Sun Entertainers equally energetic. Some Norwegian wait and other non-entertainment staff also performed and proved to be very talented.
(I also opted for the Denali Express Tour offered by Norwegian. The bus rides were way too long. The hotels were on the lower quality end of the spectrum although acceptable. Denali Grizzly Bear Lodge has very picturesque views from the room. The main problem is the restaurants are situated across a busy highway with no traffic signals, very dangerous especially for anyone with a mobility problem. Plus the mattresses are beyond firm. Clarion Suites in Anchorage provides a very large room but the hotel is very noisy even when in the room. The highlight of the Denali Express package was the railroad ride from Denali to Talkeetna with spectacular views of Mount McKinley. We were free to move about most of the train and the Dome car was never crowded. Denali National Park was very impressive and expansive. The main reason to visit Denali is to appreciate the unspoiled wilderness and the lush scenery. You will see moose, caribou, and bears, but probably more so at Yellowstone. At Denali, the park belongs to the animals and the humans are only the spectators. After the bus ride from Whittier to Denali the previous day, the 8 hour excursion into the park became brutal.)
After the Denali land tour portion ended I spent my final day in Anchorage. I thoroughly enjoyed the Alaska Native Heritage Center (accessible via a free shuttle at the tourist office and various city hotels). I learned so much about the indigenous culture of Alaska and enjoyed meeting some of the native population there. I especially enjoyed my tour of the various edifices where the Indians dwelled and the host presenters. After my return to Anchorage proper, I attempted to walk the Tony Knowles Coastal trail, but much of it was closed due to construction.
A week before departing for the cruise, I purchased a helicopter icefield excursion from Coastal Helicopter. A company representative very conveniently picked me up where the ship docked. The glacial views from the helicopter were breathtaking. That particular day the helicopter landed on Herbert glacier and we then walked as far as the terrain permitted with the pilot accompanying us. The glacier was exceptionally slippery since it had rained the previous day. The glacier looked just like advertisement, emanating the azure blue light. The $275 price was a bargain compared to the Norwegian excursion price. On the return I asked a coastal representative to recommend a whale excursion tour. They dropped me off in town rather than the ship where I could purchase a whale watching excursion. Because of time factors I ended up purchasing a Dolphin boat excursion. Based on cruise critic comments, I felt it was a reputable company although I preferred a smaller boat. The whale boat ended being fabulous with seeing approximately 14 different whales up close with many basically engaging in a feeding frenzy. (I had an hour before the Dolphin boat left and I spent most of the time at the Red Dog Saloon. I only purchased a hot chocolate for $4.00 with tip. I sat next to a lady from France sipping a class of hot tea. She was very friendly and a good conversationalist.) My only regret is that I did not have enough time to see Mendenhall glacier other than via the helicopter.
Near the Ketchikan Visitor Center, a short walk from where the ship docks, I boarded a local bus to Totem Bight State Park to see the Totem Poles. The bus fare was only $2.00 for an all day pass (exact change required). The totem poles are very colorful with explanations provided in a guidebook. Be sure to see the adjacent Potlatch Park with even more vivid Totem Poles. There is no need to pay for an excursion to travel to the park. I also secured a walking tour map of Ketchikan at the Visitors Center. The map was very easy to follow, even for someone like me who is directionally challenged.
I had previously purchased a White Pass Scenic Railway excursion, but due to a train derailment a couple of days earlier the trains were not operational. Instead I changed my excursion to a bus tour traveling up the Klondike Highway through some of the Canadian Yukon territory. The views from the bus were spectacular and the bus driver very informative relaying all the hardships endured by those seeking gold in Alaska during the late 1890s. We stopped at a few spots for picture taking plus two tourist places, Caribou Crossing for an included lunch and the other Carcross for a rest and shopping. The lunch spot also housed a museum, more of a taxidermist dream, and a place where dogs are trained for the Iditarod dog sled racing. I succumbed and took a dog sled ride for about $30, supposed to be about 15 minutes but was actually about 1/2 that duration. In Anchorage at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, I later learned you can get a similar dog sled ride for $10 The highlight of the trip was Emerald Lake; visually it is more beautiful than an emerald.
I stayed at Sandman Suites on Davie and highly recommend the hotel. The room suite was spotless, the staff extremely attentive, and the location very convenient. I spent two nights there, but had only one full day to tour Vancouver. Unfortunately the weather was dismal, but I still managed to see most of the major Vancouver sights (Stanley Park, Gastown, Granville island, Chinese Garden and Chinatown) via the Hop-on Hop-off Big Bus. I was told by the cab driver to choose the Big Bus rather than the trolley to tour Vancouver. I regretted not staying an additional day to see Victoria.