We just returned from an 11-night Mexican Cruise from San Francisco on the NCL Sun. The ports included Mazatlan, Acapulco, Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas.
We had an outside cabin with a window. The cabin was fine with a queen size bed (two twins together) and a sofa, coffee table, desk and TV. It seemed to have more closet space than the Pride of Aloha.
We had cruised on NCL Pride of Aloha in Hawaii in 2006 and the food and service were great. We also cruised Holland America in 2007 to Mexico from San Diego, as well as other cruises in previous years, so we were familiar with cruising and we must report that the NCL Sun was the worst in regards to food and service. It was so bad that on the last day we asked them to credit us back the daily $10 per person service charge, which is supposedly shared by the service staff. We used the money to individually tip the very few people who DID provide good service. The food selection, quality and service was from bad to adequate, unless you went to one of the restaurants with a cover charge, which we did more often than on previous cruises due to the poor quality in the main restaurants. The portions were small, the food (especially sauces) was very salty, fresh tomato slices on smoked salmon was always soggy, cold juice was often served in hot glasses, same with cold fruit being served in hot bowls, there were water drops and stains on the glasses when you sat down to eat, the espresso was often made wrong, food was served in the wrong order, etc. The Garden Cafe (their cafeteria style restaurant) had limited selection and was laid out poorly. There are no trays, so you get your hot food, then cold food, then hot food (because of the poor layout)....then put your plate down on a table to go get a drink...by the time you return to the table, all the food is cold. The staff seemed tired and unfriendly. I know these people work long days and months without a day off, but they were borderline rude when you made even a simple request.
Our room stewards did a good job keeping our room clean, but were not very friendly. Usually the room stewards smile and greet you as you come and go from the cabin and often call you by name - not these guys - we ended up giving them each a tip on departure ONLY because they kept our room clean and that was the only time they smiled and shook our hand. The entertainment went from bad to good, but nothing great. The musicals were decent but the sound system blared the music too loud. Most of the activities were geared towards selling us something, either on ship or on shore at one of their tourist trap destination stores. On previous cruises, I always found a comfortable chair by a window in one of the public areas, to sit and read peacefully. This was not found anywhere on the ship. The library was quiet but had limited window seating and all the other areas were noisy.
On embarkation, they did not deliver two pieces of our luggage for hours and we called several times and were told to be patient and call again. By evening, when we called back, we were told that the luggage had been held by security and that they should have notified us. They never notified us and they never told us why our bags were being held in the first place. They said the bags might have contained alcohol, which they did not. Furthermore, we were promised an explanation and never received one.
On a positive note: The Italian restaurant Il Adagio had great food and service. The cover charge is $10 per person and worth it. We ate there twice and enjoyed both times. We also ate at the Teppanyaki for $20 per person and the East Meets West Steakhouse that I think was $15 per person. All of these had good food and good service, but I did not like feeling coerced into going there in order to have a decent meal. Mexico was lots of fun! Last year we booked shore excursions, which showed us around, but cost anywhere from $50 to $100 per day per person. This year we decided to use our AAA Mexico Tour Book recommendations and we saw a lot more for a lot less. We used public buses and water taxis, which cost about 50 cents per person per trip, and it was quite an adventure! Where there was no public transportation, we took regular taxis. We spent our saved dollars on locally made foods and souvenirs and had much more fun than with the packages.
A summary of our Ports of Call:
San Francisco: Leaving San Francisco was great. We live in the Bay Area, so there were no flights to catch. I wish more cruises departed from San Francisco Embarkation was quick and easy (except for the misplacement of luggage as noted above) and the views of the bridges and city from the ship were great.
Mazatlan: We only had about 5 hours in Mazatlan and we made the most of it by sharing a tour van with three other couples. We paid $20 each and the driver took us where we wanted for over 4 hours. We saw the city sites including the cathedral and central market, we stopped to watch the cliff divers, and he took us other places of interest.
Acapulco: We had a long day (until midnight) at this port and we enjoyed every moment. In the morning we walked to the local central market (Mercado Municipal) and downtown area as well as making a visit to the cathedral near Plaza Alvarez. It was very hot and after walking around for 3 hours or so, we were ready to cool off. We returned to the ship and changed into our swimsuits and found a cab to take us to the beach at Playa Caleta (for about $5), which was a great way to cool off and enjoy the afternoon. We had lunch at a beachfront restaurant and went swimming. Around 5 PM, we saw that there was bus service there, and we took a bus for about 50 cents back to the ship. We showered and changed again before heading out for an adventurous bus ride up and down the coast until we were ready to stop to find a local restaurant. We had a great dinner before heading back to the ship.
Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa: We only had from 8 AM to 2 PM at this port so we decided to take a water taxi to Playa Las Gatas. You can take the water taxi that the locals use for about 50 cents roundtrip instead of the $10.00 round trip ticket they sell to tourists by going to the end of the pier and asking someone that does not look like a tour operator.
It was a great time at the beach. Again, we had a wonderful Mexican meal including crab tacos and seafood shish kabob and lots of warm water to swim. The only bad thing was that it is a rocky beach, so I wish I had brought my water shoes.
I heard from other passengers that shopping was nice in this area as well, so I would go back there in the future to see more.
Puerto Vallarta: In Puerto Vallarta, we took the local bus to El Centro (their old central district) and there was some nice shopping there. I bought some better quality souvenirs than you see in many of the tourist areas. We walked along the marina, visited the church of Our Lady of Guadeloupe and we had a nice lunch near the central bridge (Avenida Insurgentes Bridge) before heading back to the ship by local bus.
Cabo San Lucas During our last cruise, we saw the city and tourist sights at this port, so we again headed to the beach for our last stop in Mexico. We went to Playa del Medano. It is a 40-minute walk from the ship, which was not all that great in the heat, but afforded us a peek into the city life of Cabo. After an enjoyable day swimming, sunning, beach chair shopping from passing vendors, and of course drinking and eating, we took a cab back to the ship. Many fellow travelers took the water taxis back, but I did not want to deal with getting on and off one of those little boats with all my souvenirs. To summarize our experience: We had fun but won't go on the NCL Sun again and will definitely research the ship's service before booking next time. I saw that this website had posts from previous travelers about the NCL Sun and I did not want to believe them. Now I will check here first before booking!