This was not my first cruise. However, it was my first cruise with NCL and the experience of freestyle dining.
Embarkation / Debarkation Vancouver is our home port and with five of us traveling on this cruise, we opted for limo service to Canada Place. We previously used LimoJet Gold and were satisfied with the service. However, we chose Star Limousine this time and were extremely pleased with the service received. The chauffeur was punctual to the point of being early, was pleasant and provided a nice ride down to the port. Upon arrival, our bags were whisked away, not to be seen again until later that afternoon. Our party was split in two (3 Canadians / 2 Brits) and therefore we went our separate ways at customs. It was a very smooth process for us and we were on board at 12:05pm. The other two in our party (the Brits) did not arrive on ship until 1:30pm. They had additional paperwork to fill out. With 800 plus passengers from Britain on this particular cruise, it took them awhile to process everyone. Shortly after 1:30pm, the announcement was made the cabins were ready for occupancy. Luggage delivery was a very lengthy process. I ended up having to hunt my luggage down as it had not been delivered to our stateroom by 5pm. I found it way down the hallway and carted it to the room myself.
Debarkation was just as easy as embarkation. The times are colour coded as to when you can leave. Once your colour is called, you head off the ship to customs. After customs, you pick up your luggage which is lined up colour coded. We also used Star Limousine for the ride back home and again received excellent service.
Cabin We had booked an inside (sideways) cabin and were sorry we didn't have a balcony on this trip. With three adults sharing, the room was cramped. There was no pullman, just a sofabed which was left as a bed the entire length of the trip. This made accessing the cupboards where our clothes were a little difficult. Due to the width of the sofa bed, the door to the washroom could not be opened all the way. As I was the one who slept on the sofa bed, I found it very hard the first night. When I saw our room steward the next morning, I did request a foam topper be added to the sofa bed which made it a little better but not by much.
Ship & Crew The ship was very clean and at all times throughout the day, we saw it being cleaned in one form or another. I can't say the same for our cabin though. Maybe this had to do with the sofa bed not being put away each morning. There was one part of the room that did not get vacuumed. One morning, we had to clean our own toilet as it did not look like it had been cleaned for a couple of days.
Navigating around the ship was awkward at times. If you wanted to go out on one of the upper decks, you had to go through a restaurant to do so. It was nice having the covered promenade deck, especially the day we sailed into Tracy Arm Fjord (wet weather).
The crew was pleasant and most seemed to enjoy their job. We had one incident in the Four Seasons dining room where we were spoken to very rudely by one of the greet-seaters. However, the waitress we received was extremely pleasant and one of the best ones we had on board.
Food We ate at the Garden Cafe buffet only a couple of times. The atmosphere and feeding frenzy was not pleasant nor something one wants to experience on a cruise. There was a lack of seating in this area also. If we did choose to eat here, we either had to be really lucky and got a table right away or we had to cart our food off to another restaurant on the ship.
The Great Outdoor Cafe was a nice place to eat. They served mainly hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries. There was some salad and baked goods as well. The seating area here was generous but not a place you wanted to sit in questionable weather.
The Pacific Heights restaurant served waffles in the morning and pasta / pizza for lunch. I only ate breakfast and lunch once from this restaurant and enjoyed what I had at each meal. There are nice big booths in this restaurant but we never actually sat in here to eat.
The Four Seasons and Seven Seas restaurants were good. We ate the majority of our evening meals here and had a few breakfasts as well. It was much more pleasant then the buffet. I'm surprised more people don't eat in these restaurants, especially for breakfast.
Of the ala carte restaurants on board, we only ate at the steakhouse once. The cover was $20/pp. The meal was fantastic as was the service. Our british friends ate at Le Bistro and chimed the same sentiments. They enjoyed their meal just as much.
Entertainment The entertainment on board the ship was great. We caught two of the three production shows (Mr. Producer and Cirque Pan). They did an excellent interpretation of Peter Pan. The magician J.P. was great! You could really tell he enjoyed what he did and he was funny too. I did not catch the comedians show. However, on the last night of the cruise a Variety Show took place. The comedian, magician and singing act (The Cat's Pajamas) all performed. It was an awesome show. Speaking of the Cat's Pajamas, these guys put on an excellent performance. If they turn up on a ship you are sailing, do make sure to catch a performance, if not all their performances. Just great!
Ports of Call / Excursions Our ship made stops in Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. The only port I did not do any wandering around in was Juneau. That was partly due to weather, partly due to where the dock was and partly due to having an excursion.
In Ketchikan, we all went on the Misty Fjords boat tour. We had great weather and the scenery was beautiful. We saw a couple of bald eagles and some of us saw some humpback whales. We had previously read that those passengers attending this tour had to walk a ways to get to the boat. Fortunately for us, the boat pulled right up to the ship and we all got on there. When we returned, we were dropped off at the tender dock. With some time to spare before having to get back on board, we walked over to Creek Street. There was lots of salmon in the creek making their way upstream. We rode the funicular to the top of the hill then walked down Married Man's Trail to the bottom.
In Juneau, despite the rain, we headed to the salmon hatchery where there was a pair of seals climbing the fish ladder having a feast. From there, we were bused to Mendenhall Glacier to join up with all the other passengers from the other three cruise ships in town. It was crazy! I never did make it into the visitors center. Once this tour was over, we just headed back to the ship to get warm and dry.
In Skagway, we went on probably the best excursion of the trip. Rather then riding the train, we went on the Yukon Drive Scenic tour and scenic it was. Our timing could not have been better with all the fall colours on display. Our driver, Mark, was fantastic. You could tell he enjoyed the drive and stopped whenever someone thought they saw something or if the scenery was perfect for a photo. We even saw mountain goats way up on the side of the hill. The tour was conducted by Skagway Street Car and I highly recommend it. Once back at the ship, there was plenty of time to wander the streets and do a little shopping.
Summary All in all it was a nice trip. I would definitely head back to Alaska as I'm sure there is still more to be scene. Would I travel NCL again? - yes. Would I travel the NCL Sun again? - probably not. I just didn't find the ship easy to navigate.