I’m a 34 year old male who sailed solo on the Norwegian Sun from San Diego, CA, USA to Valpraiso, Chile from November 2, 2016 to November 19, 2016. I’ve sailed with many different cruise lines but have found NCL to meet most of my ... Read More
I’m a 34 year old male who sailed solo on the Norwegian Sun from San Diego, CA, USA to Valpraiso, Chile from November 2, 2016 to November 19, 2016. I’ve sailed with many different cruise lines but have found NCL to meet most of my needs and as such this was my 24th cruise with them although my 37th cruise overall. I’ve sailed on other cruise lines including Celebrity, Princess, Carnival and once on Royal Caribbean. How I structure my reviews is on a day by day basis of what I did and my thoughts on what I did. Hope you enjoy the review….
DAY 1 – Embarkation & San Diego
Since the ship had just returned from Groove Cruise Cabo, a full ship charter, it took longer than normal for the ship to be cleared to start embarking the next guests. I was on back-to-back with this charter so I didn’t get off the ship until 11AM. Since the ship was still not cleared at that point, I headed to Starbucks and made a few calls before heading back to the terminal. When I arrived back to the terminal, I queued with other guests to get back through security and walked right onto the ship. I’m sure others on this voyage will tell you embarkation was a mess but for me it was super easy!
I dined for lunch in Seven Seas where service was fast and friendly while waiting for my new cabin to become available. I swapped from an ocean view on Groove Cruise to a balcony on this cruise. Since the prior cruise went a little longer, rooms were not announced as ready until after 2PM. I just hung out in the dining room until they were ready.
Balcony Stateroom – Deck 10 – Cabin 0053
Located right by the aft stairwell, this cabin was in great condition for the ship’s age. Everything functioned as it should have. The noise from above was from chairs and tables being dragged in the Sports Bar. This would happen infrequently so it wasn’t loud or annoying. I’m a night owl so the tables and chairs moving was encountered in the early evening when people were assembling sides for watching football games and the like. The cabin came with a terrycloth robe, soap, lotion, coffee maker (which was changed during the voyage) and a mini-bar. Noise from the aft stairwell was rarely heard and I couldn’t hear my neighbors at any point during the voyage.
Since my luggage was waiting for me when the staterooms were marked as ready, I went ahead and unpacked while waiting for muster drill. There was some confusion when muster arrived as my old muster station was on my keycard and not the new one. I looked at the back of the door to make sure mine had moved as I went from forward to aft. I went to the muster station on the door and they saw the keycard and sent me down to the other muster station forward. I got there and they couldn’t find me on the manifest for that station and sent me back aft. I went back to the person and they found me on the list. Turns out when my new keycard was printed at guest services they actually re-printed my old room’s keycard, not the new one so when I tried to get back into my cabin it wouldn’t let me. Quick stop to guest services got that fixed.
I headed up on deck to see the Feel Free Sail Away Party. The cruise staff were trying but clearly no one was interested in partying and a few people danced but the few souls hanging around the pool deck were just watching, not participating. The music was what you’d expect for a normal cruise sailing. For me after Groove Cruise, it was culture shock. I stuck around until the cruise staff took off which was about 45 minutes after the start of the party and then went around the ship to catch cast off from different vantage points.
At 5:30PM there was the solo traveler’s meet up in the Havana Club. There was a huge group of solos this cruise, largely bolstered by NCL’s offering of a solo cruiser discount on the voyage. Our social hostess for the cruise was Benjeel from the Philippines. Lovely lady but the first night even she was overwhelmed with the sheer number of guests who showed up. Dinner was arranged for solos at two times, 6PM and 8PM. At 6PM most of the solos disappeared and went to the dinner. I stayed behind at the Havana Club and chilled as the Friends of Dorothy was also here at 6:30PM.
After the Friends of Dorothy gathering, I headed back to the cabin to get ready for dinner at the Seven Seas dining room. After a nice dinner of I can’t remember what I ate, I headed to the 9PM variety show.
STARDUST SHOWTIME: Welcome Aboard Show
This was a nice introduction to some of the acts we would see during the early part of the voyage. The production cast performed a couple of dance numbers while the Norwegian Sun show band also performed. A couple of divas came out and did a few songs and the magician came out as well for a few acts. The ship’s senior staff were also introduced during this event. It was entertainment for the night. Afterward, given how exhausted I was from Groove Cruise I went to bed.
DAY 2 – SEA DAY
After going to bed so early the previous night compared to the last voyage, I was up at 4:30AM wide awake. I purchased the unlimited wifi package and did some work on the balcony as the sun was coming up and then went to breakfast in the main dining room. I love fruit so almost the entire order for breakfast was fresh fruit and yogurt with some French toast on the side. All of it was presented and prepared well.
At 11AM there was the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet with the ship’s officers and fellow cruise guests. We took part of the venue at the Observation Lounge for the gathering. All the senior officers were in attendance and offered to assist us in any way with any issues we had before getting off the ship. They all provided us their handy phone numbers which was very nice of them. Brian Watlers, the Hotel Director came over afterward and talked with me a bit as he remembered me from several cruises I’d taken on the Norwegian Jewel.
In the early afternoon after a buffet lunch, the ship held the first welcome back party for Latitudes guests. It was so large that they held it in the Stardust Theater. I asked for a Sprite and Vesna Campos, the Food and Beverage Manager saw to it that I received it.
I floated around the ship for the rest of the afternoon and got some sun while checking out the DJ’s afternoon pool side set. I got some sun for a bit and then headed back inside to get ready for dinner and the solo’s gathering at 5:30PM. I skipped the solos dinner again tonight in favor of meeting more people at the Friends of Dorothy but there was a large turnout again for the 6PM dinner time.
STARDUST SHOWTIME: Las Vegas Tenors
I sat for the early show at 7PM and watched these three very talented vocalists perform together and individually to some great tunes spanning many different genres of music. I enjoyed their show and a lot of guests seemed to as well since they received a standing ovation. After the show was over, I went to dinner with some new friends made along the way.
Norwegian’s Night Out Party
At the encouragement of the solo’s hostess, I checked out the Norwegian’s Night Out in Dazzles Disco. It was all older music as the average age this voyage was 64. I stayed for a couple of songs and watched the cruise staff try and rope people in for dancing and then went to bed. If the music was anything more current than the 60s and 70s, I might have stated but I was exhausted and the music was putting me to sleep.
DAY 3 – SEA DAY
After working a bit on the wifi and then getting some breakfast it was off to the Behind-The-Scenes ship tour for Platinum Latitudes members being hosted by Andres Dos Santos from the CruiseNEXT desk. We were shown the I-95, ship’s laundry, production back stage in the Stardust Theater and finally the ship’s galley. The tour is hosted at different points by the department heads. It’s a really nice overview of how the behind the scenes on a ship functions and a perk of being a Platinum Latitudes member. Loyalty does have its rewards!
After a quick bite to eat for lunch, I went to the gym for a little bit before going up on deck and catching some sun. The sun was setting later so it was perfect. Headed back for a quick shower and change and went to the solos gathering. Tonight I joined the 6PM group at dinner and shared a table with 11 other guests. It was a bit busy with one end of the table being a higher age demographic than me and the other side being about my age. It kind of split up the table along those lines and people were not cross-talking between the two groups. One thing I can’t stand is dining alone at dinner. As a solo traveler, I’m accustomed to doing most things on my own but dining for dinner solo is not my favorite.
STARDUST SHOWTIME: DIVAS 2
After seeing a tease of them in the embark day’s variety show, I was skeptical of this performance and whether or not it would be any good. Individually the two can sing nicely but when combined it’s worse than nails being scratched on a chalkboard. The African American vocalist could get higher notes and seemed to be having more fun with it than the other girl. I did stay through the whole performance as I did need something to do before the disco got going. I would not recommend this show.
At 10 PM Dazzles flipped to an open format with the DJ Onyx. I stayed for the first few songs which were again stuck in the 70s but it was so quiet. No one was in there except a handful of older people. The scene was dead so I went to bed. Turns out this cruise saved me a fortune in alcohol expenses as I only drink if the nightclub is good and the music makes me want to stay.
DAY 4 – SEA DAY
After a leisurely working breakfast, I headed to the gym for another workout session. The gym on the Norwegian Sun is well appointed with cardio equipment ranging from elliptical machines and treadmills to bikes and rowing machines. There’s also a number of weight resistance machines working just about every major body part and then there’s a small assortment of free weights. The layout is functional. If you want to do any form of stretching you have to go into the aerobics classroom next door. While there might be a seminar being taught by Bogdan, the personal trainer, you can still use the back of the room without issue so long as you’re quiet.
After a nice lunch it was back up to the forward deck to catch some sun and get a nap in. Seems like the sea days were meant to be workout and sun time. While the ship had trivia, bingo and the usual suspects of towel animal folding and fruit carving demonstrations, I just chose the more leisurely route.
Tonight at 5:30PM I went to the solos gathering and again accompanied them to dinner. During dinner service this night (I think), Amber Strings came and performed for the dinner service. These girls are amazing and do several classical numbers and different shows throughout the cruise in the atrium and various other venues.
STARDUST SHOWTIME: Las Vegas Tenors
Wait, didn’t I just review that? Well it’s a long cruise so Las Vegas Tenors came back for a second show with new songs to be sung. Again, these guys did not disappoint and belted out some great favorites from Opera to Rock ‘N Roll hits. When you think of tenors you usually think of boring but these guys really are good. I was happy they had a second show.
There was no point even staying up for Dazzle’s Disco as it was advertised as having the 50s and 60s sock hop so I just went to bed.
DAY 5 – HUATULCO, MEXICO
NCL SHORE EXCURSION: Huatulco Archeological Site and Market Shopping
I had myself convinced I wasn’t going to do a shore excursion at this port call and just hang out on the beach right at the end of the pier. Well after 3 sea days and the ship being completely dead after 10PM, I was itching to do something. Elysabeth at the Shore Excursion desk was honest with me and said this shore excursion did contain a bit of shopping but I decided to book it anyway. It turns out due to mobility limitations we didn’t spend that much time shopping and instead spent more time at the ruins!! The Copalita ruins are still being excavated but they give you a peak into Zapotec, Mixtec and Aztec merchant lifestyle and how they went about processing new people into the colony. The tour guide was quite knowledgeable as we were going around the site and had some of the different myths about the site. There’s still a lot of wiggle room on what actually went on here. Given the artifacts that are at a museum as you enter, the guide believed it was more merchant trade compared to any of the other stories! While on this lovely tour I met two Australian ladies as well who made the tour that much more enjoyable! I would recommend this tour!
Back on the ship, the two ladies I met on the tour decided to have a drink and get some food at the Great Outdoors. When the ship sailed from Huatulco I was on the Promenade Deck and when the ship swung around to head south the sunset was just amazing. This cruise I got to appreciate nature so much more than usual. In the morning before we arrived there dolphins jumping on the port side of the ship which I watched from my balcony. The sea was kind to me this voyage.
STARDUST SHOWTIME: Pure Variety
Tonight was the first night full production show by the Sun singers, dancers and showband. Exactly like it sounded like, the show was a variety of different songs that introduced the principal singers in the cast and the dancers to the attending guests. It was a good show!! I attended the 9PM showing after having a lovely dinner in the dining room.
Not having anything on the agenda for the next port call, I tried to give Dazzle’s Disco another chance. Tonight’s theme was Dancing Through the Ages. I brought my phone with me to do some work on wifi as I checked it out. Sure enough the music again was stuck in the 70s. Never thought I would dislike the song Twist but it was being played as much as the Cupid Shuffle usually is on a regular 7 day cruise. I was amazed and bored so off to bed I went again!
DAY 6 – PUERTO CHIAPAS, MEXICO
Like Huatulco I had been to Puerto Chiapas before. I had seen the main city close by and the ruins and archaeological museum which is worth checking out if you’ve never gone before. However, there’s nothing much else to do. I stayed on the ship after breakfast and again did a workout and went out to the hut where the souvenirs were. I wasn’t moved to buy anything. I stopped by the pool where the crew were hanging out briefly and decided to just head back on the ship and give the crew their space. I grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed up to the forward sun deck which was empty and laid out. All in all it was a very uneventful day!
SPECIALTY DINING: Teppanyaki
Tonight I dined with two friends I made the previous day at Teppanyaki. If you’ve never done it before, it’s dinner cooked before your eyes with a little bit of a show. Tonight was a very personal seating as it was just us three and two ladies from the UK. It wasn’t a full table! The show was that much more intimate and the chefs took time to get to know us more. It also allowed us to customize the food with less salt and butter than is customarily use in the food preparation here. I was so thankful! The chefs did an amazing job and earned a little bit of an extra tip for their service. The wait staff were friendly and the hostess did recognize me from a previous cruise on the Jewel. When you cruise so much the crew literally become family, it was so nice to see her again.
STARDUST SHOWTIME: Master Magician Greg Gleason
The problem with cruising too much is you see some of the entertainers over and over again. This would be one example. If you’ve never seen Greg before he’s got a slew of slight of hand tricks and illusions. However, his show hasn’t changed since the last time I saw it so I didn’t stay for the whole thing. It is worth checking out if you’ve never seen it before though! Between having an excursion in the morning and knowing the disco would be stuck in the 70’s all night, I gave up and went to bed. It was 70’s disco night in Dazzles.
DAY 7 – PUERTO QUETZAL, GUATEMALA
The first new port on this itinerary for me. I was up early to get some breakfast and see the ship make its approach to the pier. The ship actually docked starboard side so I couldn’t see just how interesting debarking was. The cruise pier was actually just a metal grating and rickety to get to the mainland. I couldn’t wait to get off the thing after debarking the ship.
NCL SHORE EXCURSION: COLONIAL ANTIGUA
On the drive to the colonial city of Antigua, the tour guide was explaining local customs and the history of this area of Guatemala. What really was fascinating was our passing of the two volcanoes Agua and Fuego. One of them was actually beginning to erupt again. While scary and awe inspiring at the same time, the tour guide assured us we were in no danger. I took several photos and unexpectedly crossed something off my bucket list to see – an exploding volcano. The eruption wasn’t that great or big but still cool to see if you’ve never seen it before.
When we arrived to Antigua, we debarked the bus and went to the cathedral and the Central Plaza before heading to the museum. The cobblestone streets and facades reminded me of mainland Spain architecture. It was amazing. Guatemalans are poor and it showed with the number of people who instantly started to follow us the whole time we were in Antigua trying to sell different things to us. When we said no, they would pop up at the next stop selling something else. I truly feel bad for these people but don’t they know this type of harassment will only cause visitors to view their country unfavorably?
The tour included a typical Guatemalan lunch at a restaurant not too far from the Jade “museum.” The Jade museum was nothing more than a shopping stop that our guide left us at and then disappeared. He never told us a time to meet back up and this was just a money stop thrown on the tour. The lecture given was more about the quick differences in jade versus fake jade and to get us into their shop instead of teaching us anything. I was not pleased with how this tour ended. The tour guide at that point was flustered with a group of Asian people who were not following directions and messing up the tour for the rest of us. I could’ve ventured off on my own more if I knew the time we had to meet up. I was not happy with this tour or the guide for this. I wish I had written down the tour guides name to warn you for the future. How the second half of the tour went would have me not recommend it for you if you’re considering it.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: CAGNEY’S STEAKHOUSE
It was a lovely dinner with great company. I had the shrimp cocktail and Tomahawk steak. The steak was HUGE and so was the bone sticking out of it! It was cooked to order and cooked correctly. The service was absolutely amazing here as the restaurant was fairly quiet. The hostess came over and Vesna, the Food and Beverage Director stopped by to see how dinner service was going. It was a great night and relaxing dinner service. After a long day of touring it was needed!
STARDUST SHOWTIME: Comedy of Anthony Padilla
I went to the 9PM show and walked in after it started. Comedians are rarely funny on cruise ships or at least for me. I gave this guy 15 minutes and was not impressed and got up and left. I don’t know if guests were just tired or had already left but the theater wasn’t as packed this night either.
With a sea day the next day I tried to give the benefit of the doubt to Dazzle’s for some nightlife. It was ballroom night in there. Unfortunately, when that event ended it stayed stuck in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s and again I went to bed. My bar bill was safe for another night.
DAY 8 – SEA DAY
Another sea day, another leisurely working breakfast followed by a work out and then lunch and some sun in the PM. The sea days I had developed a rhythm so it was good to keep it. The ship did offer an assortment of activities to keep one busy if you wanted to stay inside but I just did my own thing. Tonight’s dinner was in the Seven Seas Dining Room aft. The hostess and the maître d for the restaurant greeted us and sat us at a nice table after by the ship’s wake. It was a good dinner service.
STARDUST SHOWTIME: Master Magician Greg Gleason
I know it’s a long cruise but he was back for a new show. I decided to check out what was going on after the dinner service ended. The 9PM show had already started and I decided to check it out for a bit. Again, if you hadn’t seen his act before then you’d be surprised and amazed. When he started repeating things I had seen before, I took off. Tonight was the awesome 80’s Dance Party in Dazzles. I went and checked it out for a bit and then headed to bed.
DAY 9 – PUNTA ARENAS, COSTA RICA
I’d been to this port before on a Panama Canal cruise. Having done the tours already which interested me, I was in no rush to get off the ship here. I spent the morning eating leisurely in the restaurant and working. I got off the ship and decided to walk around. Punta Arenas really isn’t that developed besides the free wifi you can get at the end of the pier and from the vendors who have shacks setup going down the street pedaling different foods. There is a shopping area along the water for you to buy different souvenirs. I walked down to the lighthouse at the tip of the little peninsula where the ship docks. If you go out of the pier area and take a left and keep walking along the shore you’ll come to the lighthouse. There’s a beach club down there as well that looked clean and inviting and had some restaurants that looked much cleaner than the ones by the boat.
I headed back to the ship to grab a quick bite to eat before going out to explore Punta Arenas to the right side of the pier. This side was not nearly as enjoyable of a walk. The bus station was down here and if I was more adventurous or had done some research I would’ve known that this station would have taken me into a much larger town for a cheap price. Some of the cruise guests opted to do this and reported they had a good time.
STARDUST SHOWTIME: ROCK YOU TONIGHT
After a leisurely dinner at the Seven Seas aft dining room with good company I checked out the second show (9PM) of Rock You Tonight. It was the Sun production cast’s second production show. I’d seen it before on the Norwegian Sky and it was just as good. The production cast on this ship installed just before Groove Cruise and so they are fresh into their contract with a lot of energy and pizzazz. It showed in how enjoyable the show was!
Tonight was the Tropical Deck Party poolside. I decided to give it a shot and didn’t realize it was live vocals by the band Blue Notes. They played some crowd favorites.. It was a bit windy up there but the party was scarcely attended. I went and checked out Dazzle’s Disco and it was completely dead. When Blue Notes finished and took a break I went back to Dazzles and it was still dead. Off to bed I went! Bar bill still safe!
DAY 10 – SEA DAY
It was a bit cloudy today so I decided to go to the gym this morning like usual after using some wifi at breakfast and being leisurely. I guess some guests opted for a workout for the first time this cruise as the weather was not the greatest. The gym was fairly packed. This is when the number of broken cardio machines became noticeable. Two of the elliptical machines were not functioning and one treadmill was broken.
CROSSING THE LINE: TRADITION AT SEA
This was a cheeky take on earlier seafaring traditions when crossing the equator. Since it was my first time cross the equator I was dubbed a “pollywog.” Since the location changed due to the winds and the rain up on deck, I missed the pre-sign up for a toga but that was ok. After the pollywogs went and received their anointing by King Neptune (a finger of whipped cream placed on the forehead), I went up and was anointed as well. It was a cheeky ceremony but still fun nonetheless. The cruise staff had fun with it and it was the most attended event I had seen on the ship thus far (even with the night time entertainment on the ship in the theater)!
Since the weather wasn’t the greatest, I had some lunch and ventured around the ship. The spa and photo gallery folks could clearly see my boredom and when they didn’t have customers, would converse with me. It was very nice of them do to that. I guess this cruise didn’t have a lot of people buying things in either area leaving the staff friendly and welcoming to talk to all guests!
STARDUST SHOWTIME: Stephen Kane
Stephen’s act was entirely using a piano. I wasn’t sure what to expect and basically it was a piano recital. He seemed to appease the older crowd in the Stardust theater so kudos to him for that. After about 30 minutes, I decided to leave and get ready for my specialty dinner reservation.
SPECIALTY DINING: La Cucina
Tonight I had dinner with an old friend from the Norwegian Jewel at La Cucina dining room. It was a nice evening with La Cucina favorites although I can’t honestly remembered what I ordered. The service from Santhil was great!
Tonight I asked DJ Onyx to play some more current music. Finally there was some current music in the disco and a group of younger people came crawling out of the wood work and danced the night away. Ok, it was about 1.5 hours but it was the BEST night of the disco the whole cruise to this point!!!
DAY 11 – SEA DAY
Another leisurely sea day with another leisurely breakfast and some wifi and then off to the gym for a mini workout. After the workout I hung out behind the smoke stack in a wind shelter as it was insanely windy and most of the top deck was closed. I was there until 2PM when a deck hand came by and woke me up from a nap and told me I was not supposed to be there. It was a public area so I was confused by what he was telling me. I told him I was a guest and not crew and he told me that it didn’t matter that due to high winds the area was closed and to leave! I did leave but was dumbfounded by the whole thing as it was the ONLY place besides immediately around the pool that didn’t have wind. I didn’t want to be by the pool as the people down there were doing nothing but complaining the whole cruise about the pool deck being re-surfaced. There was a group of people camped out there everyday who seemed insanely miserable and just wanted to complain about everything. I tried to avoid them at all costs. I just went back to my cabin and chilled for the rest of the afternoon.
STARDUST SHOWTIME: Amber Strings
After dinner in the Seven Seas dining room, I went to check out the main performance of Amber Strings in the Stardust Theater. Most guests didn’t know they were covering for an entertainer who missed the ship due to flight issues. Amber Strings are a trio of ladies who perform classical favorites with two violins and a cello. They played a host of classical favorites with some introductions to them in between. If you like classical favorites then be sure to check these ladies out! Once their performance was over I strolled past Dazzles where Blue Notes was playing and kept going straight to bed.
DAY 12 – SALAVERRY / TRUJILLO, PERU
INDEPENDENT TOUR: Trujillo Del Peru Specialized Tours
After researching this port, I found there were two things that were critical to see, the Moche Temples and the ruins at Chan Chan. Unfortunately, NCL did not have a tour which combined both of these highlights but this independent provider did. It was a full day tour and custom made on their website for the Sun’s time in port. For a US 30 deposit, they held a spot for you in a comfy air conditioned mini-bus. The tour left out of the port without needing to take any shuttle busses. The tour took us to the Temple of the Moon and past the Temple of the Sun for about 1.5 hours. After a quick tour we headed to downtown Trujillo and the main historic center of the city. We headed to Chan Chan afterward and were in Chan Chan for about 1.5 hours touring the main temple. This tour was on-the-go but I got to see so much and the tour guide was so amazing. You couldn’t beat the price for what was given for information and sites seen. I would definitely recommend this tour provider.
SPECIALTY DINING: Moderno Churriscaria
After watching two people run down the pier as the ship pulled away, it was time to get ready for a huge feast. The tour did not include lunch (didn’t have the time for it) so I was famished. I dined tonight in Moderno which is a salad bar plus endless amounts of meat delivered to your table. The female passadeur was very friendly and gladly accommodated one of my friend’s special requests about the meat being cooked to well done. Traditionally the meats are served from medium to medium well. All the meats tasted great. During the dinner service, the temperatures moderated a bit in the restaurant. It was a bit chilly when we first arrived. During dinner service Grace, the hostess came over and chatted a bit and then Vesna Campos came over when she came through the restaurant. At one point we were the only guests in the restaurant. It was a great dinner service and a long one. I was HUNGRY! Definitely go here when you’re starving!
STARDUST SHOWTIME: What the World Needs Now
This was the third production show from the Norwegian Sun production cast and orchestra. This was based on the hits of Burt Bucharach. Again this entertainment was geared to the 1960s time period so it largely sailed over my head. The mood of the show was so mellow and chill it did put me to sleep. Out of the four production shows this cruise, this one was my least favorite. Your perspective might be different given your age. The cast was amazing but the theme of the production was not lively enough for my tastes. No time for anything else tonight but bed!
DAY 13 , DAY 14 and DAY 15 – MACCHU PICCHU OVERLAND TOUR
A few days before hitting Peru we received an updated itinerary for the Macchu Picchu Tour. Apparently, the local train workers on Peru Rail and Inca Rail were going on strike on the full day we were supposed to be trekking to Macchu Picchu. In order to salvage the trip for guests, the tour operator re-arranged the tour making the first day the day to see Macchu Picchu. Otherwise, the tour would’ve been cancelled. If the tour was cancelled I would have been livid. This tour was the ONLY reason why I booked the cruise!
After some initial confusion about baggage it was determined you were allowed one carry-on item and one backpack up to 11 pounds on the train to be brought on the plane. We had to pick up our passports which were collected at the gangway when boarding the ship in San Diego a day prior to arriving in Peru from the shore excursions desk. In them contained the Andean passage ticket and stamp for arrival into Peru.
DAY 1 – In the morning I woke up super early and ate in the buffet before heading back to the cabin. The ship had arrived while I was eating breakfast but was no longer moving. Wasn’t sure why we were not proceeding to the dock. I went back to the cabin and finished cleaning up and headed to the theater for the 6:30A meet up time. The Captain was trying to get us in early so we could get off the ship and get to the airport right away. Problem was, the Peruvian navigation pilot didn’t come to the ship until after 6:30PM and so we were no where close to docking at 7AM. This started a snowball effect on the entire day’s travels.
When we debarked the ship at 7:30AM we were already behind schedule and headed for the busses immediately as directed. As we were going to leave the port, the busses went to the wrong exit and we had to spend time to loop around and head for the correct exit. Being behind schedule, this didn’t help things.
When we got out of the port, we hit the Callao and Lima morning commute traffic. We sat at one intersection with a cop directing traffic for 15 minutes. Traffic was everywhere and our arrival to the airport was one hour past the time the plane was supposed to take off. When we arrived to the airport it was a like a scene out of Home Alone! We dashed through the airport and headed for the plane gate. We had to clear security. We all arrived to the gate to find the plane was already loaded with other people flying to Cusco. They were wondering what the hold up was. When I boarded the plane, the oriental group was again lagging behind taking selfies and other non-sense. When they got on the plane they argued with someone over who was sitting in what seat as some people were split for the short flight. This only further delayed us!
By the time the plane was finally loaded and everyone sat down, it took forever to get pushed back from the gate. Being late meant we lost our take off slot and when we finally did push back from the gate we spent 50 minutes sitting on the run way waiting for clearance to take off. When we did finally take off, the flight was fast.
Upon arrival into Cusco we were hurried to the baggage area where we were told to go outside and get into 1 of 6 vans outside waiting for us and to head to the train station in Ollanta. I picked van number 5 as the people in it looked the most abled bodied. When we arrived into Cusco that’s when I realized there were people who had no business being on this tour. NCL should insist on people having medical clearance or notes from a doctor saying they’re capable of doing the tour. These people caused further delays with their sluggishness!
We took off in the vans for the train station which was normally a 1 hour and 50 minute drive. Since we were going downhill and passing cars, we were making up for lost time. However, we were still past the original itineraries train departure time. Turns out we missed our assigned train. When we arrived to the Ollanta train station there was another two car special train heading for Aguas Calientes. Problem was since we missed our train, this train had other tourists on it. We had to board the train from a dirt road on the opposite side as we were already late. We received a box lunch before boarding the train to eat on the way to Aguas Calientes. Turns out since we were late but not the last van to arrive as one had pulled over en route (presumably for guests to use nature’s restroom as the vans didn’t have one), they ended up missing the train! In total there was not enough room on the train for three tour guides and six guests. We didn’t know this happened until half way through the train ride there when a conductor came through looking for the tour leader. My tour guide Fidel was left behind at Ollanta Train Station.
When we arrived to Aguas Calientes we were herded towards the bus stop to board the bus up the hill to Macchu Picchu. We boarded the bus and cut a group of others waiting. They were not too happy about us doing so. When we get up to the entrance there was a bit of chaos trying to figure out how to divide what was 6 groups into 2. While this was going on, they were closing the entry gates to the ruins!! I tried to get the tour guides attention but they were trying to work it out. A couple of other guests and I went through the entry gates since we had the tickets. I wasn’t about to be shut out after this long day of commuting! I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to get back to Cusco but figured if it was this much a mess then they’d wait for me and get me back!
Turns out they did get the tour groups into the ruins and when I got my own photos and walked around a bit I bumped into Maria’s group which was moving briskly with the tour. I followed her around and she described many things and moved as fast as she could given the group size. She did a remarkable job in the 1.5 hours we were there. Before I realized they were closing the ruins from the top down and clearing each level, I tried to run up to the top level to get some photos. It was already closed and they were yelling at me to come back down. I was a little bummed about this but still got some great photos. All in all we spent 1.5 hours in this magical wonder of the world. I was happy to have seen it. I would’ve been pissed if I didn’t make it! Was it ideal? Surely not. However, NCL did deliver on seeing the ruins. Most guests could not understand that and the amount of complaining that ensued was just crazy.
We got back down to Aguas Calientes to catch a later train out with a boxed dinner to eat on the train provided by another catering company in town. There was a full moon overhead in the vista dome train cars so it lit up the valley we were traveling through quite nicely. We went along a river the whole way back to Ollanta Train Station. While we were on a siding mid-way waiting for another train to head to Aguas Calientes, a lot of guests were complaining about the wait as if NCL could do something about it. When the train finally did pass, it was loaded with police and riot gear. I guess this strike was serious business! After seeing that I was thankful we were going the other way. When we arrived to the train station there were even more cops with swat gear waiting around.
We re-boarded the vans to head back to Cusco and since it was all uphill it really did take 1 hour and 50 minutes this time. By the time we arrived to the Hilton Garden Inn in Cusco, it was after 11PM. The carry on luggage was already placed in our assigned rooms and all we had to do was sign and get the room keys. I was exhausted but also dehydrated so I bought two bottled waters for 4 USD. Turns out this was highway robbery and I also didn’t realize I bought two with gas (carbonated). I was too tired to turn them in and went to bed.
DAY 2 – Cusco Tour
Even though the tour order changed, we were still given an early wake up call and had to be ready by 9AM to depart the hotel for the Cusco city tour. We left promptly and headed for the main square to visit the Koricancha and Cathedral. During this part of the tour we encountered striking teachers from the university in Cusco. Our tour guide actually recognized some of them and he stopped to talk with him. Today we had our tour guide Fidel back.
After touring the Cathedral, we went to the Saqsayhuman Fortress in the hills over Cusco. Amazing Incan architecture again on this fortress built high above the city. After a nice tour of the ruins and seeing some more alpacas, we headed to lunch at a local Peruvian restaurant. All the food served were traditional Peruvian cuisine which was welcomed and refreshing given the boxed lunch and dinner the previous day were geared for Americans (ham and cheese sandwiches). After the lunch, we returned late to the Hilton Garden Inn and had some leisure time.
I ventured back into the main square area with the NCL tour escort and another lady. Safety in numbers and we were fine! We went to the main square in search of souvenir shopping. We headed down to the end of the main road and found this huge shopping plaza with tons of vendors. Most of them had roughly the same items for sale. When you found something different, you immediately bought it. Here I bought an alpaca wool poncho thing for me and magnets and calendars for gifts back home.
We took a cab back to the hotel as the sun was beginning to set. For 4 USD we had a ride back from the market to the hotel door. It was so incredibly cheap!! We had to be back at the hotel for 7PM for the hotel catered dinner. When we had dinner, it wasn’t overly Peruvian fare but more Americanized with three pieces of beef and possibly Peruvian gravy. When dinner was finished I went back to the room to relax and get some sleep. Problem was we had to be up at 4AM for breakfast and up in the lobby to transfer to the airport by 5:15AM! I didn’t sleep hardly at all with this on my mind.
DAY 3 – Cusco to Arica, Chile
I was up before the alarm clock and went and had the hotel breakfast on the go with some cereal. I was in the lobby on time and we left promptly for the airport. Given the early hour there was no one around on the streets and we watched the sunrise as we were heading to the airport.
At the airport we said goodbye to our tour guides and went through security screening. The flight from Cusco to Arica boarded promptly on Peruvian Airlines. The main reason for this was it was a charter flight all to ourselves. We took off for the short 50 minute flight to Arica.
When we landed in Arica, we taxied to the gate as another plane was leaving. We waited for about 30 minutes and then were told the jet way was not working and we had to back up and be brought to the only other gate they had at the airport. It was a small airport. We did taxi and then were allowed off the plane. The Chilean authorities, just two of them, were clearing our plane one a time in the terminal. This process took quite a while. I was one of the last to get on the final tour bus to take off in a convoy to the cruise port.
During the bus ride back to the port, a local guide provided information about the city of Arica and the surrounding area. She provided a brief history lesson and pointed out things to us as we arrived into the city limits. When were arrived back to the ship it was 10AM Peru time but we didn’t realize the ship jumped ahead two hours while we were off. It was really noon and it was time to eat some lunch! Thank goodness! My hunger won out over taking a city tour in Arica. I stayed on the ship and just took a nap when I finished lunch. I woke up in time to see the ship off.
Since we didn’t have a hotel dinner on day 1, NCL refunded the group $100 per person. This was in replacement for the first day’s train food. When we arrived back to the ship, the guests who were displeased with the whole thing went to the shore excursion manager and by the end of the cruise NCL corporate agreed to a $200 additional refund resulting in a total of $300 refunded. The tour cost was $2,099 for a solo. I wasn’t expecting any refund for us as NCL and the tour provider did get us to the ruins, even if it was not ideal. I was happy I got to see the ruins. It’s been on my bucket list forever! Not exactly sure I would return to spend more time there. I think NCL’s reimbursement was ok given the extreme circumstances facing the tour. Maybe I’m just more understanding than most?
Tonight, I dined in the aft main dining room alone as I had to get caught up on three days worth of work. Using the wifi and hanging out in the corner I had some pasta as it was the third time in my time on the ship that dinner 4 menu was served. I had some pretty spicy pasta and was thankful for it as I was beginning to get sick with some sort of cold I picked up with all the sleep deprivation in Peru.
STARDUST SHOWTIME: Magic Rush with Roman and Svetlana
I stopped by the late show (9PM) to catch their performance. These entertainers are professional decorated dancers who chose to include magic in the form of costume changes into their show. The show was ok. The costume changes and layers of costumers you could clearly see from the angle in the balcony I was sitting at (nose bleed). The show flowed ok and was entertaining. I don’t know if I was just exhausted or just hyper aware with all the oxygen at ground level to see how they had arranged all the costumes on their bodies. It was Latin night in Dazzles so I headed to bed.
DAY 16 – SEA DAY
After a leisurely breakfast and getting some work done, I went for a workout. It was simply too cold outside to go out and sun. The workout took up most of the morning and then after a nice lunch, I relaxed back in the cabin on the balcony for a bit. Before dinner there was the Platinum Latitudes party in the Observation Lounge. There were lots of Platinum guests this cruise. We were left to mingle with the senior management on the ship for a bit before heading to dinner.
SPECIALTY DINING: Cagney’s Steakhouse
Tonight we celebrated one of my cruise friend’s birthdays at Cagney’s steakhouse. It was her choice of where to go and tonight for a change the steakhouse was packed with people! My dinner consisted of a wedge, the shrimp cocktail and the Tomahawk steak again. The steak was so tender and juicy and cooked to perfection. I loved it again! The wait staff came over and asked for our desserts and then my birthday surprise for my friend came out. She didn’t see it coming and big thank you to Vesna Campos for getting it arranged as a surprise for her without her even having a clue! Big props to the Cagney’s team this trip. Service from the hostess to the wait staff to the cooks behind the scene was just amazing.
STARDUST SHOWTIME: World Beat
This was the fourth and final production number on the Norwegian Sun. Save the best for last is usually how it works. This show was new to me and I LOVED every last minute of it. Music from around the world represented in costume, dance and vocals. The cast brought such energy for this last production, it was toe tapping and amazing. What a great way to end the cruise! The tributes to Africa and Orient were especially amazing. I wish I could’ve seen it twice! Well done cast!
FEATURED PARTY: White Hot Party
It’s easy to do because all you do is wear white. Thankfully DJ Onyx took Dazzles out of the stone age for music and finally to current beats. There was definitely some electronic dance music coursing through those speakers. FINALLY!! It was the best night in Dazzles since one night earlier in the cruise. By midnight the format had slowed and flipped to Latin and by 12:30A I was went back, showered and headed to bed. At least the night was energetic enough that I ordered two alcohol drinks. I have to say the new prices for Grey Goose and Sprite were quite sobering. If you’re going to charge per drink more than Boston you’d better give me a Boston pour of alcohol. This measured pour for $11.50 is for the birds. It used to be $8.76 a year and a half ago!
DAY 17 – COQUIMBO, CHILE
After a morning breakfast it was time to get off the ship and explore with the NCL shore excursion.
NCL SHORE EXCURSION: Coquimbo and La Serena
We had a young tour guide from the university named Joaquin who was telling us all about the two locations. His personal story seemed more fascinating than the history tour he was giving us. It seemed like this port call wasn’t really meant to be full of history. Coquimbo had suffered from a tsunami recently and so the coastline was rebuilding from that. The buildings are designed to withstand earthquakes but not tsunamis. We made a couple of stops along our journey including to a look out with seals and sculptures where the pirates used to be. From there we headed to a lighthouse for a photo op. The lighthouse was never functionally used. Odd we would be brought to something that was simply a decoration and a tagged (spray painted one) at that.
We were supposed to stop at the Archaeological Museum but for whatever reason we were not allowed in. Not sure if the place was closed or not. Finding a useable bathroom at this point was hard to come by as the public toilets in the park were out of order. People split off from the group to go to the toilet and eventually we did find one. We were then dumped at La Recova market to shop for a short bit before reboarding the bus. We headed up the hill to La Serena university to get a panoramic view of the city and Coquimbo where the ship was docked. If it was clearer it would have been picturesque but it was cloudy and cool. Unseasonable according to the tour guide. I was on lucky tour number 13! The recurring 13 theme since the date we left for Macchu Picchu was uncanny!
Overall, Joaquin was a good kid. He was trying to pay his way through university getting his business administration degree. He was really young and I was surprised NCL used someone so young for the excursion. He knew his history and was a fluent translator for others on the bus. I guess I just expected something more from NCL for this excursion. It was ok but not something I would recommend. I was sick with a cold at that point so I stayed in the back away from guests and got back on the ship and relaxed.
I had a farewell dinner with some of the people I met throughout the voyage in the Seven Seas dining room. Service was leisurely and it was great company. Both of them were staying on to go around the Horn but I had to return home. 22 days on the Norwegian Sun was the longest I’d ever spent on any ship!
Tonight I went to the photo gallery to look over the few photos I had taken. I ended up buying a stock photo of the ship in the Panama Canal and a copy of the ships itinerary – both stock photos! One of them had to be re-printed and some Photoshop done as it showed some serious rust along the water line for the Sun. The photo manager saw to it personally and it was ready for me in the morning before I debarked. I walked around the ship a bit and said goodbye to other familiar faces and headed to bed.
DAY 18 – VALPRAISO / SANTIAGO, CHILE
Since my flight was not until 10PM, I booked a post-cruise shore excursion to help pass the time.
NCL SHORE EXCURSION and AIRPORT TRANSFER: Wines, Horses, and Santiago Overview with Transfer
Another early morning and off the ship early as the tour disembark time was 7:30AM. Our luggage was brought to the airport for us and all we had to do was disembark. The terminal for the cruise passengers is not on top of where the ship docks but a bus ride away. The ship docks in a container port!! When we bussed to the terminal we had to clear immigration again and go through metal detectors. Karma was instant for a guy who cut me to get off the ship and then cut me again to get into the terminal building. He had two oranges in his pocket from the ship. This was not allowed and we were repeatedly warned. Since the ship had been in Chilean waters for two ports, the customs guy was not impressed and hauled the guy away to fine him! Rudeness of guests this voyage was irritating even during disembark!
We traveled to Casablanca Valley and had a tour of the Michael Cole vineyard and had a wine sampling. After the sampling, we were given some free time to shop for the wines. While the wines were cheap, getting them to the USA was an expensive proposition. One lady bought a box of wines to bring home and was going to ship them from the airport!!
After we finished at the vineyard we headed over to Estancia el Cuadro for a horse demonstration along with some traditional Chilean folk dancing. After the show we were brought to the wine museum and out to their vineyard to be shown the differences between the grape leaves that make all the different wines. Since it was early in the growing season, most of the grapes were not formed. It was the leaves that you could tell the difference by if you were paying close attention. Pretty neat!
We had lunch at Estancia el Cuadro while having some typical Chilean music and folk dances peformed. It was interesting to see different instruments used and one local Chilean instrument which the tour guide explained to me. When she was showing it to me it fell apart into several pieces on the ground. I felt so bad. We got it all fixed up and off she went to a wedding which was being held on site. This place was absolutely stunning and was designed for weddings and functions.
When lunch was over we headed to Santiago for a brief overview of the city. During the city tour we stopped at an artisanal village called El Pueblo de Los Dominicos. Full of handicraft items we were given some 25 minutes to shop here. Not nearly enough time to buy anything as the vendors closest to the entrance charged a lot more than if you went to the back. Shopping on this cruise was at a premium on most of the tours and this one was no different.
We headed to the Sheraton hotel to dump off guests who booked a post-cruise hotel stay through the cruise line. We then headed for the airport arriving just before 5:30PM. It was a long day and I was thankful to be at the airport knowing the journey to get home was getting closer. The tour did the job of filling the day and keeping me busy. For the price paid, it was ok.
This cruise was strictly for Macchu Picchu. I saw what I came on the cruise to accomplish and saw some pretty neat sites along the way. Would I recommend this cruise just for Macchu Picchu? Final answer would be NO. If you want to go and see the ruins, it’s best you do something longer and take into consideration any labor actions that may be happening. I know NCL gave it their best and I can’t fault them for the strike or the logistical mess that was only aggravated by a series of rude guests. The six guests who missed the train and later stayed behind to catch it on the day after we flew to Arica never got to see the ruins. I got off the cruise a happy person for having to experience this wonder of the world!
In comparison to Groove Cruise, the cruise prior to this one, this one was very relaxing and sedate. Expect an average age that’s way higher than on NCL’s usual 7 day itineraries. I can’t fault the cruise line for constant catering to the predominant age group on the ship. I made the best of out if that I could and got plenty of sun in as well. The gym was a welcomed addition and something I don’t usually spend that much time in on a cruise.
The staff and crew were simply amazing. Vesna Campos, Food and Beverage Director seemed to be everywhere in the afternoon and evening. She runs a tight operation and was always so kind and hospitable when I saw her. I remember her from the Pearl charters. She ran those very well! Such an amazing woman and she knows her stuff! Brian Walters, the Hotel Director who has been with NCL since before I was born (wow!!) was around and always said hello. Mihaela Mocan, the Restaurant Manager would always greet me when I entered the Seven Seas dining room by name and be a friendly face around the ship. I have to give a huge shout out to the photo staff as they would see me roaming the ship and talk with me when I was going through if they weren’t helping customers. They helped to keep me sane in night hours when I would hope for something lively in Dazzles to keep me from going to bed. While it never happened they were always so kind to me no matter at the gangway or in the photo gallery. The singles social hostess Jezibel was also very friendly and always beaming whenever I saw her. I think it was the end of her contract but she was giving all she had to keep the solos happy. Grace, the hostess from La Cucina and Moderno was always a welcoming sight no matter where ever on the ship I bumped into her. Carlos, the concierge who recognized me from the Jewel cruises I did back in 2009 and 2010, was a familiar face and so helpful during the cruise. Carlos saved me from having a complete anxiety attack over NCL’s changed policy about cashing travelers checks (they don’t do it anymore although it’s not published anywhere saying that). I also want to thank Kodi Oliver on the production cast for the warm welcome to the ship when I boarded for Groove Cruise 22 days prior. I would see him around the ship and he’d always say hello. He also hung out with a group of kids who were disabled which he wasn’t obligated to do. Big shout out to him for doing that. Kane on the production cast for being around and a smiling face to talk to when he would be strolling the ship or having lunch or chilling in the buffet. The cast on this ship was far more approachable than any other cast in recent memory. Last but not least Jun Serrano who was my cabin steward. He kept the place tidy and was always around to greet me and ask how my day was.
In conclusion, the Sun is a humble ship. While she’s one of the older ships in the NCL fleet, she’s still in good working order. Prior complaints about sewage odors were unfounded as I took the aft stairwell constantly. The guest’s behavior on the ship I can’t fault NCL for but we went through the US election on the ship and besides a group of oriental people being constantly rude, some of the other guests after the election took license to being complete idiots. This cruise had its fill of odd characters. The crew never wavered though and I experienced excellent service no matter where I went! When I’m on NCL ships I feel at home. That’s why I’m leaving again on another NCL cruise one week after getting back from this one!! Read Less