LA to Vancouver BC - May, 2009
A group of friends and family joined the Norwegian Sun for the three night repositioning cruise from LA to Vancouver BC. Below are some thoughts on the ship, and on repositioning cruises.
Because of the swine flu scare it took longer than normal to embark. We arrived at 11:55 and were not on board till 2:10 PM. This would have been OK, if we had been given better information about the reasons, and also better direction when we were in the boarding area. Direction in the boarding area consisted of one security guard yelling at people to stay back from the boarding line until your group number was called. The few times he used the public address system he bellowed into it. An NCL representative could have given the directions, and would likely have done so with more grace and charm.
NORWEGIAN SUN - THE SHIP
We had previously taken the same journey aboard the Norwegian Star, so it was fun to compare the two ships. The Sun is a smaller ship, which gave us more of a "homey" feeling, and made it easy to find our way around. The downside is that there are fewer venues, so there is less variety. The shopping on board was also more limited. The ship was clean, comfortable and well maintained.
The cabin was nice, standard sized (balcony on the Fjord deck). Bathroom was smaller than I've experienced in other ships, but was very efficiently laid out with an innovate circular design. Certainly enough room to do everything that was needed.
This was probably the best aspect of the trip for me (apart from just being at sea!). The Jean Ann Ryan Company was very good, with a Cirque de Soleil style show. The comedian was funny, thinking well on his feet. The magician was also very good.
Two things which could have done with improvement were the Martini "lesson" at "NCL U" where the staff member was difficult to understand, and the staff seemed unprepared for the number of people who turned up. A passenger, who had taken the same "course" on board another ship said they did a better job, and had actually been able to mix the drinks themselves and so could learn more.
The other demonstration was the towel folding, which was fun but again the staff member was difficult to understand.
The food was very nice. If you like to have a sit-down lunch when you first board, then check the various full service restaurants. I was told by one crew member that no full service restaurant was available, but walked to Seven Seas and found they were serving lunch. Similarly, if you like a full service breakfast check around. On our trip they were serving full service breakfasts in the restaurants. However, you had to check the daily paper, since they would direct you to a different restaurant if you were not in the one which was assigned to your cabin.
Staff were very friendly, and dealt promptly with problems and concerns. We noted that a lot of new staff came on board for our trip, and they were not fully up and running on how things worked. We wondered if this partly due to this being a repositioning cruise. Also, restaurants and housekeeping seemed to be short-staffed at times. However, the staff's can do attitude made up for a lot.
One thing which we appreciated was that the number of announcements over the public address system was limited. The Captain spoke once a day (around 10:00 AM), and the Cruise Director made some announcements, which were not piped into the private cabin areas, which we very much appreciated.
Service at times was sporadic. For housekeeping, errors were made in each of the four cabins which we had. Examples include: coffee makers weren't present, informational binders were missing, mattress toppers were not on the bed despite being requested, soap wasn't provided (despite two requests). One cabin was not made up till about 3:00 PM, and the cabin steward apologized saying that his partner was at training that day.
One complaint often heard is that you are continuously pressed to buy drinks on the mass market ships. We actually found that this wasn't the case, except for the evenings in the Dazzles Nightclub.
One notably poor area of service was the East meets West Steakhouse, where other diners were getting up to try and get the servers' attention. The food there was wonderful however.
FINAL THOUGHTS & REPO CRUISES
Despite the issues raised above, we enjoyed our three nights aboard. My cabin was a balcony on the Fjord deck (Deck 9) which was very quiet. This deck is sandwiched between two other accommodations decks, which I try for, since I believe it makes for a quieter cabin.
Fellow Cruisers - A mixture of people and ages. A think the destination, lack of port calls, and cooler weather made for a mellower crowd. Still fun, and folks were having fun, but it was not a "booze cruise," which we appreciated.
We also very much liked that there was no enforced "formal night" aboard. Norwegian Cruise Lines' "Freestyle" cruising ethic means that you can dress formally if you wish to, but it is definitely not required. NCL is
The repositioning (repo) cruises make for a nice short break, and are a good way to try cruising if you just want to get taste. Be advised that these types of cruises do not focus as much on port calls. Our trip did not have any intermediate stops, so we were at sea from Thursday evening till Sunday morning. Also, some aspects (such as midnight chocolate buffet) which you might get on a longer cruise, are often not provided.