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74 Norwegian (NCL) San Francisco Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise because it left from our home port and did a full transit of the Panama Canal. Both were highlights of the cruise and fantastic. We loved taking a taxi to the port and fortunately had been warned by the CC roll call ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it left from our home port and did a full transit of the Panama Canal. Both were highlights of the cruise and fantastic. We loved taking a taxi to the port and fortunately had been warned by the CC roll call that the pier information was incorrect. I contacted NCL 3 times the month before sailing asking them to correct the edocs, but it was never done. We expected lots of confusion so arrived right at our 11:00 boarding time and had no delays getting on the ship. We had lunch in the MDR and dropped our carry ons in our cabin when it was available. To our delight, our balcony view was of the golden gate bridge and the Blue Angels practicing fly bys! The ship departed 2 1/2 hours later than scheduled which again was no surprise. The sun was just starting to set and the sail under the Golden Gate was amazing. Panama Canal crossing started with a 6:25am announcement from a canal spokeswoman and views of Panama City. Enjoyed this day a great deal. We started our viewing with the complimentary Panamanian breakfast (and mimosas) from our balcony and moved around the ship throughout the day with our favorite views being aft from the Great Outdoors. The Pearl was behind us and a large HAL ship next to us throughout the transit. The ports on this cruise are not great. Cabo, Puerto Vallarta and Huatulco were ok but similar to each other. Puerto Chiapas was a waste - we stayed on the ship and used the spa. Keep asking the spa about specials - it took about 4 separate inquiries, but finally we found a special that worked perfectly for us. In Puntarenas we were stuck at an industrial port outside of town. The tour guides had to board the bus out on a main road. Our excursion was ok, but many longer excursions were caught in terrible traffic jams. The ship waited 5 hours past departure for everyone to get back. Cartagena was the final port and the intense heat and aggressive "vendors" were too much to deal with. Ship: It is in ok shape and definitely needs the makeover due in the Spring. Hopefully, an O'Sheehan's style venue will finally be added. That small buffet is a really unpleasant. We didn't have any A/C problems in our room thank goodness, but the Seven Seas MDR has major problems. It was sweltering in the evenings and like a freezer at lunchtime. Meals in general were fine. La Cucina was a miss both times though. The $25 shrimp meal was bad. The steak special was a terrible quality of meat and inedible. We enjoyed the dinner with officers (Chief Financial Officer and Payroll Accountant). Service at the bars was good all around - particularly Jeffrey at the Champagne Bar, the poolside bar and the Great Outdoors. Entertainment: This was a long cruise with many sea days. The production cast had the best talent we've seen: the singers (all 6 were great) and dancers were very good. The guest performers were ok - a juggler, hypnotist, Irish folk story guy, comedian, Broadway singer. The Motown group was the best. The Cruise Director and staff worked hard. We had fun at the many trivia events. Internet: The manager was very helpful. We had two incidents when the sign off didn't work and she restored our minutes. The hardware in the internet café is kaput. After the first few days, the onboard software would not connect to my email provider's server and about 1/2 of the pc's were not working at all. The printer also did not work. Using our phones worked. A shout out to Cole in the Cruise Next Dept. He has figured out how to do this job the right way. He conducted the Platinum Plus behind the scenes tour as well as two presentations. He also was a dancing with the stars judge. He was very visible around the ship and remembered us when we saw him. We booked a cruise for next year with him and he was very knowledgeable about the ships, cabins and itineraries. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
We selected an aft facing cabin for our Panama Canal transit, boarding in SFO. A great treat for us was to watch the Navy Blue Angles practice over the bay just before we left. That alone was worth the trip. Leaving SFO under the Golden ... Read More
We selected an aft facing cabin for our Panama Canal transit, boarding in SFO. A great treat for us was to watch the Navy Blue Angles practice over the bay just before we left. That alone was worth the trip. Leaving SFO under the Golden Gate with picture perfect weather was a tremendous experience. Some of the ports were pretty "why-even-get-off" the ship kind of stops - but we were mainly interested in going through the canal. It would have been nice to stop in Panama. Cabo San Lucas - Cabo Wabo always fun Puerto Vallarta - Been there, done that kind of stop. Huatulco - Nice beaches Puerto Chiapas - $10 bus trip to town. Got to town and took next bus back. Don't waste your time here. Puntarenas - Our return delayed by 5.5 hrs by traffic - almost missed the ship. Docked in terrible industrial side of port while other cruise ships docked elsewhere. Cartigenia - Best stop of the cruise. Regarding the mini-suite: (I know NCL sanitizes each cabin between cruises, but for our own piece of mind, whenever we cruise we bring spray sanitizer and wipes. Before we unpack we wipe down everything that may have been touched by previous passengers including the light switches, door knobs and handles and the ice bucket. We provide our own plastic ice bucket liners and ask our steward to use them daily when adding ice. I suggest you do the same. You will feel more at home knowing you aren't making yourself sick on the first day.) Initially we were quite happy with our stateroom until the sliding door would not stay closed in rougher seas. It took three days of calling reception, talking to our steward before it was finally fixed. For two nights the door would slide open and crash into the other side waking us (and probably our neighbors) up. I finally wedged my tripod into the door to keep it closed. I wish I had thought of it sooner. The transit through the canal was a great experience, one that should not be missed. After the Panama Canal our A/C went out. With the sun blazing into the room we had to keep the curtains closed to try and block the scorching sun. Reception promised to send someone up right away, but no one ever showed. To be fair, I heard from another passenger that A/C problems were common on this ship and that the repair could be done from outside the room. A "we were here" note would have been nice. But we suffered for another 3 days until the A/C finally was up to the task of cooling the room. Our steward kept calling his boss to try and get it fixed and it still took three days to resolve. In the midst of all this, we received a notice that our balcony was to be painted and that we couldn't use it until 10:00 that evening, meaning we would not be able to be on our balcony for sail-away. So now we had an ocean view instead of a mini-suite with balcony. Nice. They decided not to paint after all, but didn't bother to notify us (and I assume others). So the balcony went unused (but paid for). I need to mention the noise and vibration that occur when the ship accelerates/decelerates, it is very noticeable. You will not wake up surprised to be in port. There will be no stealing silently into or out of port. After a while, it becomes a sort of background noise that you can learn to live with. On balance, the view from our cabin was worth the vibration. The fact is the ship is old by cruise line standards and the furnishings show the wear and tear of those years, but I was surprised to find that NCL had not replaced a bedside table with obvious cigarette burns. How long had those been there? Halfway through the cruise the public announcements stopped being echoed on the ships TV channel. Fortunately that was fixed prior to the transit and we were able to listen to the very knowledgable Panama Canal commentator as we progressed through the locks. Regarding food: Overall the food on NCL is above average, the service is excellent and the staff always cheerful. The worse place IMO to eat is Garden Court buffet which, even with the washy-washy team squirting everyone they can, is a boiling caldron of germs. The variety of food there is limited and would appeal to those of us who like a routine breakfast. You might consider bringing along some disposable gloves if you are going to use the drink dispensers, the dressing pitchers, the table condiments or the food ladles and other things that get handled by everyone. The sad truth is that many people walk right past the washy-washy and the sanitizer station and no matter how many times NCL cleans those things, they are going to be the transfer point. Every time I hear someone cough, I cringe. Maybe the washy-washy people should say "washy-washy cover-mouth". I did enjoy the washy-washy musical performances including the Beatles hit "Wash your hands" to the tune of "I want to hold your hand". The specialty restaurants were on-point as were the two main dining rooms, which we enjoyed. Cagney's common problem (as on the Escape) of mis-timing mains and apps did not occur the three times we ate there. If there was a problem it was being seated at the time of our reservation. The wine steward was very helpful. Le Bistro was a great experience, the wait staff and maitre d' exceptional providing excellent service and 'touch'. Four Seasons and Seven Seas both offered great quality food, prompt and attentive service. La Cecina is a beautiful venue, probably the prettiest on board. Hidden down a stairway, it is long and not very wide, you are reminded of a dining car on the Orient Express or something from the movies. Elegant with attentive staff. Pool side cook-outs: I'll just say they were confusing, difficult to find a place to sit and not worth the effort. Bars: The Champagne bar run by Jeffrey and Jerry is a fun gathering place that seems to attract interesting and outgoing people. It became our pre-dinner cocktail favorite. Interesting that the Champagne bar doesn't really sell Champagne. Ah well... The Poolside bar, didn't appeal to us, although the bartenders were great. Seating is difficult and uncomfortable. The Atrium bar is nice, just a different vibe than the Champagne Bar. Great for a morning bloody. Great outdoors: Bar is great. Table service (cleaning, etc) is rather spotty with a fair amount of standing around. Sports Bar: I'm sure there are logistical reasons the waiter can't take a drink order and vice versa, but I don't know what they are. Common complaints for the sports bar are table hogs, bridge and mahjong players taking up tables and only one sporting event on the many screens. Mahjong in particular annoyed other diners/viewers with it's incessant tile slapping. Bartenders very good. Chicken wings are great. Common areas: Theater, always cold, many people brought beach towels to wrap themselves with. I felt the seats were old and uncomfortable. NCL does a good job of keeping the common (reception, etc) areas attractive and neat. NCL still can't seem to figure out how to keep lounges from being "reserved" all day. Entertainment: Entertainment was very good, some seats were obstructed and not marked resulting in a constant flow of people into and then out of those seats. DJ was typical pool DJ. Several people commented that there should have been more enrichment activities (lectures, etc) and I agree. Services: Wifi - ridiculously slow and unusable. If you must have wifi while at sea, on this ship I suggest you consider the unlimited package. Daily Bulletin: Failed to list some activities, some things were not promoted at all (wine tastings for instance) and thus did not attract enough participation to take place. Our neighbor noted that Bridge was not organized or promoted, this seems to be the trend on NCL. Ships Video of Panama Canal: We paid for the ship produced video of the Panama transit which was supposed to feature the passengers on-board. IMO, you can give this a miss. Just my opinion. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
We chose this cruise because we wanted to do a full transit of the Panama Canal. It left from San Francisco and sailed out under the Golden Gate Bridge, which was wonderful. We also enjoy "Fleet Week" activities by the Blue Angel ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we wanted to do a full transit of the Panama Canal. It left from San Francisco and sailed out under the Golden Gate Bridge, which was wonderful. We also enjoy "Fleet Week" activities by the Blue Angel Navy team while waiting to sail! We had been on a previous cruise on Norwegian Sun and liked the intimacy of this smaller ship. We decided to book and Oceanview Stateroom for the first time and were delighted with it! Freestyle dining was typical of other NCL cruises we have been on ~ decent to good food selections, but nothing outstanding. Dining room service was excellent. We also enjoyed meals in the specialty restaurants Cagney's Steakhouse and La Cucina. We only attended one evening show, but it was fun. We enjoyed the talented singers and dancers. Service, in general, was EXCELLENT! No complaints. Bartenders Jeffrey and Jerry, who worked the evening hours in the Champagne Bar (as well as other locations during the day on the ship) were OUTSTANDING! Simply THE BEST bartenders we have EVER encountered ANYWHERE!!! They have taken positions on other NCL ships, but I am keeping my fingers crossed that they might return to the Sun before we sail on her again in March 2019. We had visited several of the ports in the itinerary on another cruise, but they were OK to see again. We were NOT thrilled with the port of Puerto Chiapas, even though there was a VERY NICE tourist area with a huge palapa roofed building and pool adjacent to the dock. Most of the people enjoying the pool there seemed to be crew members. We would have prefered to call at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, which is sometimes offered in the itinerary, so we could see the well preserved historic city of Antigua and near by volcanoes. The city of Tapachula, about 20 miles inland from Puerto Chiapas was definitely NOTHING special. My husband and I have traveled quite extensively in Mexico and this city was a huge disappointment. We took the shuttle back after about 20 minutes. In Costa Rica, we were redirected to the commercial container port of Puerto Caldera instead of calling at Puntarenas, as scheduled. Apparently there was a Princess ship that had top priority that docked there. The commercial port had NOTHING in the way of tourist attractions or services, as far as we could tell. It was located about 30 minutes from the cruise ship area, so people wanting to visit there had to purchase shuttle tickets at $20 per person, if I heard correctly. We had a private tour booked, so weren't affected. The transit through the Panama Canal was simply OUTSTANDING! We will be doing it again on the Norwegian Sun in March 2019 as a part of a cruise from Santiago Chile. Sailing into Cartagena Colombia was wonderful! The tall, white, modern buildings of the modern city skyline were breathtaking. There is a VERY nice tourist area adjacent to the dock with cafes, a zoo, a huge gift shop and more. We took a taxi into the city and did our own walking tour of the historic area with its fantastic, colorful buildings. We were in Cartagena about mid October and it was absolutely SWELTERING and breathless. I have lived in Tampa Florida and south Louisiana for 20+ years and am not bothered by heat and humidity, but THIS took it to a new level! Be prepared to SWEAT! Disembarkation in Miami was quick and easy. We took the NCL shuttle to the Miami airport. We did not book ANY NCL shore excursions on this trip. Ports of call were San Francisco, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco (loved this port and would like to visit there again independently!), Puerto Chiapas, Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera), Panama Canal transit (no stops), Cartagena and Miami. Would I do this same itinerary again. No, but I am glad that we did it. We will be on the Sun again and will call at Puntarenas (hopefully!), do the Panama Canal transit again, and Cartagena, with the cruise ending in Miami. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
Always wanted to do a panama canal cruise. We were not disappointed. It was hot and humid, so that limited our excursions. They couldn't guarantee an air conditioned bus, so didn't go on any tours, just went out to shops ... Read More
Always wanted to do a panama canal cruise. We were not disappointed. It was hot and humid, so that limited our excursions. They couldn't guarantee an air conditioned bus, so didn't go on any tours, just went out to shops close to the ship. Our first time cruising with NCL and it won't be our last. Inside cabin was larger than expected, bed very comfortable. Our steward was outstanding. Make sure you bring along a nightlight or leave the tv on with the shipboard camera for an oceanview!! Dining options were a buffet and two dining rooms. Plus other extra charge restaurants, didn't use those, so can't comment on them. Food was good and lots of choices. Only went to one variety show, but it was good but loud. Lots of activities if you chose to participate. No complaints except I wish they had more electrical outlets available. The was one outlet at the desk with one side for 110 & the other 220. Luckily we brought an extension cord with us. One single outlet in the bathroom for shaver only. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
I chose this cruise for the trip through the Canal plus having the experience of several ports that I was interested in seeing in Mexico, Costa Rica and Columbia. It was action packed with many activities onboard. Actually, too much to ... Read More
I chose this cruise for the trip through the Canal plus having the experience of several ports that I was interested in seeing in Mexico, Costa Rica and Columbia. It was action packed with many activities onboard. Actually, too much to do - with overlapping activities that I wished I could take part in but didn't get a chance. My steward was very attentive and helpful and I loved all those towel animals he made for me each night. Put a smile on my face. I enjoyed the captain's updates and it was very helpful that the ship also had the TV channel available to follow up on any weather conditions. I liked the idea of having a Q&A with the staff. Also, fun activities the pastry chef did to show off his skills. Best part - we got to eat his creations! The entertainment crew were great with their many, creative and fun activities. I didn't much care for most of the live entertainment or even the old movies that they showed on board, but to each their own. One pet peeve of mine is the 18% surcharge on all excursions taken on the day of the excursion. I paid for all my excursions months in advance and assumed everything was paid for - come to find out my room account showed an additional $13.99 per day gratuity and the surcharge for my port trips. I don't particularly like surprises and that one was very offensive to me. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
Had been to Alaska before (Princess) and wanted to go again. Booked this cruise on Norwegian because it was longer then Princess and less expensive. Now I know why its less expensive, because you get less. It starts with boarding in San ... Read More
Had been to Alaska before (Princess) and wanted to go again. Booked this cruise on Norwegian because it was longer then Princess and less expensive. Now I know why its less expensive, because you get less. It starts with boarding in San Francisco, with Princess I arrived at the terminal and basically walked straight on board stopping a couple of times to due check in items with never a line of more the two or three people. Total time to board less then 20 minutes. With Norwegian long lines and a 2 hour check in. Norwegian ask you to select a boarding time prior to the cruise, which I did, when you get to the terminal no attempt is made board passengers at the times they selected, SO WHY ASK. Disembarkation was no better, booked transportation to the airport through Norwegian first day of cruise, but at disembarkation it was totally unorganized. Got off of ship at scheduled time of 9:30AM, used a porter along with another older couple since we had too many bags to handle ourselves. Porter was great took us straight to the bus to the airport, unfortunately bus had just filled up so he took us back to a waiting line. After being moved from one line to another by Norwegian personnel, five times back and forth to the same line we had already been in, they had no idea what they where doing. Finally after 2 hours we where able to board our bus to the airport, barely making our flight. Cabin was typical in size for a outside cabin and clean, cabin attendant did a great job. I have been on several cruises and the one thing I found wrong with the cabin was the closet space, smaller then others I have been in, and a problem when you are on a 14 day cruise. Ship was generally clean and easy to get around, had my bearings in two days and could easily navigate around the ship. Elevators where extremely efficient, never had a long wait, best of any ship I have been on. Smoking areas are limited, two small outside areas and one inside. (Casino when open) This was an Alaskan cruise so when the casino was closed there was NO INSIDE AREAS to smoke, a real problem on a wet cold day, which you tend to have in Alaska. I don't smoke but my companion does, and one of the things that really bothered me was that the outside smoking areas where not cleaned. Tables where not wiped down on any type of a regular basis, I noticed two tables on deck 12 that had the same food stains on consecutive days. Started to do what others where doing, using cloth napkins as place mat on table under my plate. Exactly why is the casino not a smoking area when it is closed, when it is the only inside smoking area. Food and dining was satisfactory, my first impression was that the food quality was better, but after two or three days the lack of variety makes the dining boring. The one breakfast dining area available closes too early, especially when in port. When the dinning rooms are closed the buffet area is too small and becomes overcrowded. Juice choices where very good, and of good quality. Coffee was also good quality. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
Alaska was a lifelong dream. The ports were good; weather unpredictable (it was, after all, Alaska in May). Icy Strait Point was our favorite! Not touristy and saw dozens of whales. We loved Skagway and Sitka. Our ship was another ... Read More
Alaska was a lifelong dream. The ports were good; weather unpredictable (it was, after all, Alaska in May). Icy Strait Point was our favorite! Not touristy and saw dozens of whales. We loved Skagway and Sitka. Our ship was another story. The food was awful! Comparable to a cafeteria. The same food over and over every day. Fresh fruit and vegetables were (almost) nowhere in sight. Food was prepared with a lot of oils and sauces, so much that I got sick from it! Only good place to eat on board was Cagney's Steakhouse, the specialty restaurant which you had to pay extra for. Entertainers were a joke. Subpar and amatuerish. Cruise line charged for bottled water! We were told it was a US regulation that prevented us from bringing our own bottled water or cans of pop on board. Not true. We talked with passengers on other cruises while in different ports and they were allowed to bring these on board. We chose a 14 day to allow time between days in port for cruising. What wasn't shown on the itinerary was passing the same port three times before docking there. We felt like the itinerary was stretched out just to make it 14 days. We didn't get to the Inside Passage, supposedly one of the most beautiful sights, until late evening and so didn't see it due to the darkness. The itineray showed us there all day, not all night. The good part? We saw beautiful scenary and wonderful parts of Alaska. If we were to go again we would do a 7-day land and 7-day water and go inland to see more of Alaska and less of Canada and the US. We embarked in San Francisco and our ports/destinations were Astoria, Oregon; Skagway, Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Sitka, Glacier Bay, Hubbard Bay, Alaska; Inside Passage; Prince Rupert, and Nanaima, BC (both throw away ports in our estimation-just small towns), and disembarked in Vancouver upon arrival. We will do more research before a long cruise in the future. Overall, we do not recommend Norwegian. Some people said our experience was poor (food and entertainment) because we were on a smaller ship but we don't agree with that. All ships should provide the best possible experience. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
This was a bucket list item. Itinerary was amazing. Taking the repositioning cruise allowed for more time at ports and extra glaciers. Captain did “donuts” with the ship so no matter where you wer on the boat you had a wonderful ... Read More
This was a bucket list item. Itinerary was amazing. Taking the repositioning cruise allowed for more time at ports and extra glaciers. Captain did “donuts” with the ship so no matter where you wer on the boat you had a wonderful view. The cabin Stewart was so helpful and cabin was always cleaned to perfection. Bar staff were very helpful as well. The ship is a little older and had not been updated with the latest technology in the photography gallery. The biggest disappointment was the food. It was exactly the same menu for 14 days. As the weather was not always good, the restaurants and outdoor spaces were not open or usable and therefore the buffet was always over crowded and it was difficult to find a table to eat. Several times had to take our food to our cabin to eat. We had reservations for 4 at the a la Restaurants. Very disappointed. At the Steak House, the food was served cold and the main course was actually burnt. We had to send it back. The maître came to apologize and remove the meal from our bill. The Italian restaurant was the best of all. However what was shocking is that we were not able to get any seafood. No smoked salmon, no Halibut, no Cod. We actually got off the ship in Prince Rupert to go to a local restaurant for fish. After being on the NCL Epic the prior year, this was not we were expecting at all. The chef really needs to review and update the menus. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
The NCL Sun is fighting the aging of the seas quite well. Public areas are kept up to high standards, though some might consider them dated. Cabins, quite the opposite. The dating shows, and only major remodeling will fix some of the ... Read More
The NCL Sun is fighting the aging of the seas quite well. Public areas are kept up to high standards, though some might consider them dated. Cabins, quite the opposite. The dating shows, and only major remodeling will fix some of the "patches" that are being implemented. The main dining rooms are very nice, service is just delightful....but the dinner menu is well below average when compared to our 35+ other voyages on various lines. The specialty restaurants that are squeezed into the Sun, do a terrific job despite limited space and decor. The lone disappointment in this area is Le Bistro. Menu and execution were lacking. Sun hosts a variety of entertainment for everyone.....and they seemed to be well attended. The staff was absolutely wonderful throughout this ship. They are attentive, pleasant and personable. Dining and bar staff were exceptional....cudos to that entire group! The itinerary was simply the best we've encountered on our many trips to Alaska. Well balanced, variety of ports and mostly adequate time in each port. We refrain from ship based excursions, but they seem to be the standard variety found on other lines. We would definitely take the Sun again, and that goes for any of NCL's ships. We like the smaller older like this one, the Dawn and the Jewel.... but, they must put more time and money into the cabin interiors before they fall into seriously undesirable units. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We chose this cruise for the opportunity to see San Francisco and Vancouver with extra days of travel at both ends of an Alaskan cruise and were not disappointed. The Sun is a beautiful yet small ship with a great crew and staff. As ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the opportunity to see San Francisco and Vancouver with extra days of travel at both ends of an Alaskan cruise and were not disappointed. The Sun is a beautiful yet small ship with a great crew and staff. As an older ship, it gave us the feel of cruising in the late eighties, early nineties. The entertainment was a 50/50 experience for us. We loved Harry O'Donoghue and Innovation as well as Black Diamonds but were disappointed with the piano music with Meny. Comedy of David Naster was also great! The tribute show to Burt Bacharach had a good selection of his music, but the performers left something to be desired. The venues on the ship were small so if you wanted good seating you needed to get there early. We loved the dining in Seven Seas and Four Seasons, whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The Garden Buffet was usually crowded and did not have much variety. We enjoyed the ice cream bar and other quick options available for snacks. What was the greatest for us was the itinerary and the glaciers! The Captain took great care to allow for all passengers to view these with his turning of the ship so all sides had the opportunity for experiencing and photoing these magnificent natural wonders. In Glacier Bay we were presented with excellent commentary, history and other facts from the Glacier Bay National Park rangers who were on board to make this experience the best it could be. I can't say enough about this bucket list adventure....but I can say....with the Whales, Seals, Sea Lions, Otters, Porpoises and the access to native culture this was surely a trip of a lifetime. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
This was a 14 day NCL cruise to Alaska. The Norwegian Sun is one of the smallest NCL ships and I really enjoyed not being so overwhelmed by crowds both on and off the ship. The Sun visited several ports I'd not visited on my two ... Read More
This was a 14 day NCL cruise to Alaska. The Norwegian Sun is one of the smallest NCL ships and I really enjoyed not being so overwhelmed by crowds both on and off the ship. The Sun visited several ports I'd not visited on my two previous NCL Alaskan Cruises. Besides the Big Three ports of Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway, this cruise the Sun also visited Astoria, OR, Icy Strait Point, Sitka, Prince Rupert, BC and Nanamimo, BC, before ending up in Vancouver BC. Half the time the weather was perfect and the other half... not so much. The Sun served a lot of fresh, local sea food in the dining facilities and the dishes (especially the salmon) were all outstanding. Most of the food was very good, but the soups and breads were especially well prepared. As on most cruise ships, the service was outstanding. I thought the waitstaff in the various dining facilities was especially friendly and knowledgeable. The main nightly entertainment was top notch and even the entertainment in the various lounges was quite good. Since this was my third cruise to Alaska, I signed up for a lot of walking tours and nature excursions. I especially enjoyed my visit to Icy Strait Point. It seemed to be one of the most authentic stops on our cruise. Since it was Memorial Day Weekend, I visited the Nanamimo Military Museum. I was very impressed. It is small but has a lot of exhibits mostly donated by local BC Service Men and Women. Alaska is glorious place to visit and I enjoyed my entire cruise, even when it was pouring rain in Juneau and blowing my hat off in Scagway. It isn't just the natural physical beauty of Alaska and British Columbia but also the vast number of wild life species I saw. It was the nearly dozen of Humpback Whales playing in the waters only 50 to 100 meters off the coast of Icy Strait Point, the vast number of birds species, the number and various types of bears, and all the smaller animals that helped make my cruise just glorious! I just wish I could go back next week. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We joined the ship at San Francisco for the Alaska cruise and in spite of having an arrival at the pier time we had to queue for about forty five minutes outside the terminal. Being a hot day I was not too happy about this. Once inside the ... Read More
We joined the ship at San Francisco for the Alaska cruise and in spite of having an arrival at the pier time we had to queue for about forty five minutes outside the terminal. Being a hot day I was not too happy about this. Once inside the terminal things moved slowly but we were on board in a reasonable time. We were delighted with the ship. Having previously cruised on the Getaway we found this ship smaller but well laid out. We soon found our way round and were pleased with the various dining options and bars. The communal areas were rarely crowded even when the weather was bad. The Garden Cafe was sometimes busy and the food was not always hot (hot plate stands were inadequate). There was plenty of variety every mealtime. At breakfast time the complimentary dining often included Cagneys which was underpopulated as I guess was due to it being fee paying the rest of the day. The two complimentary restaurants were similar and provided a very civilised way to dine. Sometimes the service was slow but not the fault of the servers who were excellent. The entertainment was mostly first rate even if some was not to our taste. The shows in the theatre were professionally delivered and there was always a seat without pre - booking. The bars around the ship all had live music and we particularly enjoyed the band Innovation and the piano man called Meny. There were plenty of activities on offer every day. We joined in several dance classes which were fun and watched others participate in silly quizzes. Some talks were informative and interesting. We did not attend any late night parties and I am not sure who did. The average age on board was 60. Port days were well organised with easy and quick access on and off the ship. We did not pay for any excursions as they were very expensive. We were able to do our own thing in the ports either by walking or taking the free shuttles. Many ports had expensive jewellery shops that target cruiser customers. We enjoyed the Lumberjack show in Ketchikan which lasts an hour and is good fun. Icy Strait Point was in a beautiful location. You can tour the free Cannery Factory Museum then walk along the beach road to spot bald-headed eagles and whales. Cruising Glacier Bay was a highlight of the trip. The ship got close to the glacier and rotated several times so that we all got a fantastic view. We had a balcony to view from which was great. We were also able to see whales up close to the ship from our balcony. Only two small criticisms from me are firstly the music played through the PA around the ship was intrusive sometimes and may have suited a group of 20 year old passengers. Secondly the library was also the card playing area and some people are very noisy when playing. There was no real quiet area. Cleanliness was superb on board as the staff were always wiping rails and handles and ensuring that everyone use the hand gel. Overall a fantastic cruise and it is hard to find fault. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We chose this cruise because we have never been to Alaska and this cruise offered additional stops in British Columbia at Prince Ruprt and Nanaimo. There were 8 ports of call so we knew we would have the opportunity to see a lot. We ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we have never been to Alaska and this cruise offered additional stops in British Columbia at Prince Ruprt and Nanaimo. There were 8 ports of call so we knew we would have the opportunity to see a lot. We chose the Sun as we have sailed on it three times before and enjoyed each of the other cruises. We were last on the Sun in March 2016 for a South American cruise before the scheduled 2016 refurbishment. We were anticipating some changes and upgrades to the ship after the 2016 refurbishment and were disappointed with what we saw. The only changes we noticed were some new carpets in the atrium, new flooring in the gym, and new gym equipment. There may have been a minor change in part of the Garden Cafe but I am not sure. The furniture was still old and worn, as was some of the carpeting throughout the ship. The ship is smaller and older than NCL's newest and more glamorous ships but it needs to be kept up with the rest of the fleet in appearance. The Sun has a special friendly feel to it and NCL needs to spend a little cash to keep it that way. Embarkation was not up to NCL's usual high standard. We were in the priority line because we were platinum plus and it moved slower than general boarding. Staff in the terminal made no efffort to speed things up for priority passengers. They also allowed passengers who did not need special assistance into the special assistance line. More organization required in the Port of San Francisco for embarkation. The Sun is a great ship to cruise on if you don't need a million bells and whistles to enjoy your cruise. It is very easy to get around on the ship and the crew and staff are first rate. They are friendly and eager to make your vacation sucessful and memorable. We knew several staff members from previos trips and they actually remembered us by name. That is what being on a smaller ship gets you - a more personal experience.The Sun is a smaller ship and can go into ports where other larger ships cannot. There are lots of great dining venues and the food was excellent. We dined in the Seven Sea main dining room multiple times, Le Bistro 4 times, La Cucina, Moderno, Ginza Sushi, and the Garden Cafe and food was excellent everywhere. Service in all the eateries was first rate. Bar service was excellent as well. Service at restauraunt reservations was very good and guest services was very helpful when we had questions. Shore excursion desk was also very helpful with suggestions. Our cabin was spacious with good storage space. Our cabin steward Jay, was really great at anticipaing what we wanted and keeping the cabin spotless. We were on the odd deck 6A and it is very quiet there. Like this deck very much even with no elevator to it. The Sun Production Cast put on 4 main stage shows that were great. Enjoyed these shows very much even though it was their first time working together on the ship. The other entertainment varied as to personal tase but was good to very good. Had the usual mix of comedians, musicians, jugglers, hypnotist etc. The cruise director Dave and his staff were fabulous. They were all over the ship hosting and coordinating activities ranging from the usual bingo to game shows, games, trivia, music, cooking and baking demos, the Sun fair and many other activities. They hosted a movie trivia where they played out roles from the movies and used the theme music from the movies that was the funniest thing we have ever seen in 33 years of cruise entertainment. Bravo Dave and your staff. Great Job. Ports of call were all wonderful. We had excursions through NCL at all of them and they were very enjoyable. Our favorite stop was Icy Strait Point. You can see all kinds of wildlife right from the ship - whales, dolphins, seals, eagles etc. The White Pass & Yukon Railway is also a must do when in Skagway - beautiful scenery and a fun ride. Every stop had something special. We enjoyed this cruise so much thatwe are already planning our next Alaska cruise on the Sun. Disembarkation in Vancouver was fast and efficient. We had a post cruise hotel booked through NCL. Getting off the ship was fine but the sub contractor that was used for transfers to hotels and airport did not have enough busses. We waited in line for 2 hrs for a bus. NCL needs to pressure the sub contractor here to get their act together. For those that want to the subway/skytrain is only about 100 yards from the cruise ship terminal in Vancouver so you can get off on your own and take the train to a hotel or directly to the airport. For two people the fare to the airport was about $8.80 CDN. Our post cruise hotel was the airport Holiday Inn and it was booked through NCL. Good place to stay. Staff was friendly and very helpful. Easy access to the Skytrain so you could get downtown if you wanted to easily and cheaply. Hotel has a good restauraunt attached to it and prices are very reasonable. One last not, for shore excursions in all of the stops on this cruise you can just walk off the ship and get them through the local vendors directly. They are all near where you walk off and they are the same ones that the cruise lines use - so you can save some money by booking your own excursion. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
A brief background on this cruise is in order before commencing the review. The NCL Sun was originally scheduled for a two week drydock in San Francisco. For reasons known only to NCL, that drydock was shortened to one week. This led to ... Read More
A brief background on this cruise is in order before commencing the review. The NCL Sun was originally scheduled for a two week drydock in San Francisco. For reasons known only to NCL, that drydock was shortened to one week. This led to the creation of an unusual Alaska cruise itinerary and an unusually good deal for an Alaskan cruise. Instead of the usual departure points of Seattle or Vancouver, this ship left from San Francisco. Also, the cruise was 8 days instead of 7, and I secured a forward penthouse for two people at a cost of $3,700 including taxes and fees. This also included $700 cruise credit, paid gratuities, UDP, SDP, shore excursion credit and 250 minutes internet. The sail out from San Francisco was two hours late, but worth the wait. We sailed past Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate on a beautiful sunny day. The weather remained around 70 degrees and sunny for the entire cruise. Our first stop was Astoria. We took the Seaside and Cannon Beach tour. I would recommend this tour. The guide was steeped in history of the area, and the seaside stops made for some gorgeous photo opportunities. Next stop was Sitka, another good tour: the Best of Sitka. We visited the bear sanctuary, the eagle rescue center and native trails with many totem poles. The highlight of this tour was the raptor center. If you want to see a magnificent eagle about 10 feet from your seat, this is the place. The center does heroic work rescuing and rehabilitating injured birds, and the tour supports those efforts We then sailed to my favorite stop on the trip, Icy Point. This is the real Alaska. Only around 700 people live in this area. However, they just completed a new dock and visitor center. The stop included magnificent scenic mountains, waterways and forest. About an hour after we arrived, we were on our front balcony and five whales passed directly in front of the balcony in deadly calm waters. This was a real bonus on this stop. Our excursion was ancient oceans and newborn forest. Once again, we encountered an excellent local guide. He had lived in Icy Point/Hoonah all his live and had encyclopedic knowledge of the area: history, plant live, forest, sea life, etc. Our last stop was Ketchikan. Ketchikan is pretty touristy and commercial, but we needed a souvenir stop and this is certainly the place. However, it was more than a souvenir stop due to an excellent excursion. We took the Bearing Sea Crab Fisherman Tour. We are fans of Deadliest Catch, but even if you are not, I would recommend this tour. The crew puts on a great presentation and the stop to visit the eagles is amazing. Nice trip back through the Inside Passage. We did not see glaciers on this tour, but he saw just about everything else on the cruise. We arrived in Vancouver on schedule. Did the early walk off and caught our 10 a.m. flight back to Chicago without a problem. Cabin We stayed in room 9002 a forward facing penthouse. If you want some of the best views on the ship, this is the place. The balcony is huge with two lounge chairs, two tables and two regular chairs. The room itself has plenty of space for two. The bedroom and living are combined in one large room. The master bath is spacious and the closet space was large and included a dressing table and mirror. Special mention goes out to our concierge Carlos. We typically sale in suites, and Carlos was the best and most attentive concierge we ever had. NCL should use him to train all other concierges in their fleet. Dining Dining was excellent. As suite guests, we had access to La Cucina for breakfast and lunch. For dinner, we dined at Le Bistro twice, La Cucina twice and Cagneys and the Four Seasons main dining room. We did not have a bad meal the entire cruise. The buffet is smaller than some of the larger ships like the Escape which we sailed in January. However, we did not eat too often in the buffet so the impact was minimal. Entertainment If you are looking for Broadway show type entertainment like on the Escape or Breakaway, this is not the ship. Entertainment was a collection of variety acts (magic, juggling, hypnotism, stand-up comedy). The singers, dancers and band put on the best shows. Also, after the main show, a jazz quartet, Tuxedo Junction, played every night and put on a very good jazz performance at every show we attended. The Observation Lounge is a great place to see a show due to its panoramic view from the front of the ship. Fitness I used the fitness room every day. It is rather small, but as I'm an early riser, I never had to wait for a machine. The room was the usual cardio and weight machines. There is also a room for yoga and other floor exercises. Public Rooms This was the easiest ship to navigate of any NCL ship we have sailed. Elevators were never crowded, hallways were never packed with people and the atrium was accessible for sitting. After the Escapes 19 decks and crowds, the Sun was a very pleasant experience in getting from point A to B Service All service was good. Our room steward was pleasant and prompt. Our concierge excellent as mentioned above. We did not use our butler much, but he was there if we needed him. Dining room service was prompt and professional. Value for Money This cruise offered great value for money. First the fare was excellent for an eight day Alaska cruise, Secondly, all of the amenities payed for our excursions, drinks, dinners, internet, etc. Our bill at checkout was $5 plus tips we left for our room steward, butler and concierge. Conclusion This was my favorite cruise to date on NCL, and we have cruised NCL frequently. Extremely hospitable ship, great excursions and an easy ship to get around combined for a great cruise. Of course, 70 degrees and sunny everyday helped a lot in making this cruise an excellent experience. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
Embarkation My timing was perfect to miss most of the crowd getting on the ship. I was on the ship my noon in time for lunch. Somehow I missed the porters so I took my own suitcase on. Had to drag it around with me as our rooms ... Read More
Embarkation My timing was perfect to miss most of the crowd getting on the ship. I was on the ship my noon in time for lunch. Somehow I missed the porters so I took my own suitcase on. Had to drag it around with me as our rooms were not ready until sometime after 2 pm but that’s Ok, my suitcase isn’t big. Food: Well, I guess cruise lines like you to pay extra for those specialties dining to get the good stuff we used to get as part cost of the cruise. I cruised quite a bit with Princess so we used to get lobster (don’t know if they still do that, haven’t cruised with them for 3 years). Anyway, I’m not a fussy eater so what I had is good. Be it as the buffet or the dining room. At least I don’t have to cook or wash dishes! Entertainment. The entertainment was good but not as it used to be years ago (not to take away from those who perform on stage). It’s basically the same types of entertainment on most ships these days. The last day some of the crew entertained (waiters, cabin stewards, etc.) and they were good. Ships tours: I did not take any because there was nothing of interest and what looked good was just too darn expensive so I explored each port myself. Disembarkation: Easy peasy. I took my own small suitcase off the ship. I had my Canadian customs form done, thinking we’d had to line up once off the ship but we breezed by just handing the customs form to an officer in Vancouver. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
We had two balcony cabins for the PoA cruise in March 2016 to bring her from dry dock in San Francisco back to Honolulu for her usual year-round island hopping. Departure was delayed by one day as the bad weather in SFO impacted some of ... Read More
We had two balcony cabins for the PoA cruise in March 2016 to bring her from dry dock in San Francisco back to Honolulu for her usual year-round island hopping. Departure was delayed by one day as the bad weather in SFO impacted some of the renovations. Boarding at Pier 27 was the most chaotic and unprofessional procedure that I ever had to witness, it took us 3,5 hours to get on the ship! Onboard we had to learn that significant areas of the ship would be inaccessible for the whole cruise: Spa, open deck space on decks 12 and 13, many of the public toilets. While we have understanding for the weather issues in dry dock which led to delays in remodeling the outdoor spaces, there is no excuse for not even having indoor stuff like toilets and Spa operational. Due to the uncompleted renovations we had extensive loud and dirty work being continued during the whole cruise (and they still weren’t finished when we disembarked in Honolulu). On top, in the midship area on decks 5 and 6 there was a constant smell of toilet waste - supposedly there were some issue with the AirCon. Speaking of the AirCon: It was running way too high in public areas (mostly in the forward section), half of the passengers left the ship ship sneezing and coughing - come on, we're sailling Hawaii! This brings me to the most disturbing topic which continued throughout the whole cruise: The level of service by the crew is significantly lower compared to the international ships. I never had to witness so many slow / sloppy / incompetent crew members on any ship (NCL or other cruise lines). I simply don't want staff who just hop on due to a cheap advertisement on Craig's List or CandyCrush (that's what the staff told me!) - I'm used to a professionally trained crew. But let's be fair: There were also several positive things. The "beautification" (as NCL calls it) brought many of the current standards on this somewhat aged ship. The specialty dining venues as well as the bars and fitness centre now look similar to the newer ships. And while only the suites got a full renovation, the other staterooms are still in quite a good shape. The Aloha Café is still too small, therefore suite guests are lucky to have Cagneys as their dedicated restaurant for breakfast and lunch. The food itself was NCL standard, which -personally- we like even if it lacks on this small ships a bit of the variety that you'll find on the bigger ships. The food quality and service in the specialty dining were great (obviously it helped that the corporate chef from NCL headquarters was onboard to brief the kitchen crew). One thing that we weren't aware of before the cruise: As this is the only NCL ship registered in the US, the laws of Hawaii prohibit an onboard Casino. And as the ship is usually only acting as a floating hotel on the Hawaiian islands, there are also no duty free shops (just "trashy" holiday items which you can get cheaper and nicer in every port of call). For domestic US travellers without real international experiences all of this might be sufficient - but compared to real international itineraries / ships / ships, the downsides are inacceptable for us. But then again: Should you do the standard island itinerary, you probably wouldn’t notice some of these flaws as you simply don’t have the time to experience them… And once all of the renovations are completed, the PoA is a nice ship. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
We took the cruise out of San Francisco where the ship had been in dry dock for 5 weeks. We expected everything to be refreshed and new. Unfortunately, the dry dock repairs were not completed. This created a one-day delay in the sail ... Read More
We took the cruise out of San Francisco where the ship had been in dry dock for 5 weeks. We expected everything to be refreshed and new. Unfortunately, the dry dock repairs were not completed. This created a one-day delay in the sail date. We didn't mind that so much since NCL provided hotel accommodations for an additional day in San Francisco. It gave us an opportunity to visit the Academy of Sciences which was the best "excursion" of the trip. But because the repairs were not finished, there was much of the ship we could not access (one of the pools, the front of the ship closed so we could not use the jogging trail). Also, there were no spa services (something I look forward to with every cruise), as the Spa refurbishing was not completed. The check in process was just awful. Keep in mind we've done this many times. It's never a breeze, but this was the worst. Late, long lines, no special NCL Latitudes Member line, and very poor organization. It took about 3 hours or more to check in. Very poorly organized. And no consistency in directions from check in staff resulting in some people walking straight up to the check in counter while the rest of us took our turn in the various lines (one just to get into the building and another for our "check in group". About the dining: There were new menus in the dining rooms, but apparently insufficient training on how to prepare some of the items. The meal quality was very inconsistent. Sometimes great, but about half the time just awful. Frequently, the meals were not as described (if it said there would be shrimp, scallops and mahi, the scallops were missing). At one point, when asked if we were enjoying the food, we told the officer about the inconsistency. This resulted in getting a personal letter from the a Manager that was full of problems: it was addressed to Ms. and Mrs.... (we are Mr. and Ms.), said he was providing "Chocolate covered strawberries" (we received a box of chocolates) and asked us to call him. When we did, he told us that because we "complained" he got "written up." We told him we did not mean to cause any trouble and that we only responded truthfully to a question. After discussing the issues with the restaurant, I asked him for a recommendation for dinner that night. He said we should try "the garlic sirloin". We went to the dining room and there wasn't any such thing on the menu. Bottom line, this guy didn't know what he was talking about and seemed to be more interested in his own job. One great thing about this ship is the mostly American staff. They were very professional and seemed happy to work for NCL. Most of the dining room staff were very engaging. It always amazes me that staff can do that with each new set of passengers. We especially enjoyed Shay and Daniel in the Skyline dining room. The shore excursions were good. We really enjoyed the Luau and the Kona Land and Sea excursion. We booked a helicopter tour of Kawai via "Safari Tours" (not NCL sponsored shore excursion) and were very pleased. They picked us up at the dock and provided about 50 minute excursion for less than half the price NCL was charging ($125 ea). The entertainment was very good. The cruise director is native Hawaiian and she provided excellent lectures. The cruise director staff was a lot of fun. We made Kukui nut leis and other things. We really enjoyed the Pink's Champagne Bar entertainment by pianist Kevin Brandon and the "Oh What a Night" cover of the Four Seasons. Finally, the cabin size on this ship is very small. We usually get mini-suites, but there are none on this ship apparently. We got a balcony cabin and were horrified at the size of the bathroom and closet. A large person would have difficulty showering. The toilet did not always flush. But our room steward, Chris, was wonderful. Because there were so many problems with this cruise (apparently we were not the only ones complaining), NCL offered everyone a 50% off of our next cruise. We were happy to receive that, although we are not yet sure if that is 50% off any NCL cruise, or if it is only applicable to another Hawaiian cruise. If I want to go back to Hawaii, I might try Pride of America again. I suspect most of the problems were connected to the 5 weeks of uncompleted drydock and lack of staff training for new menu items. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
Flew to San Francisco 2 days before our scheduled cruise departure, to see the sights around the area. Wanted to be there because too many things can go wrong flying in the same day as the cruise. This way we are rested rested and ready to ... Read More
Flew to San Francisco 2 days before our scheduled cruise departure, to see the sights around the area. Wanted to be there because too many things can go wrong flying in the same day as the cruise. This way we are rested rested and ready to board at our scheduled time. The problem was NCL gave us the notice of delaying departure by 1 day, less than 24 hours of our scheduled boarding time. We were on a tour of Alcatraz Island, with limited cell phone service, trying to find a room for an extra night. No such luck! Our hotel was already booked up because of a convention and spring break. No room for us there! Staying at Fisherman's Wharf, we were just blocks from the cruise terminal. We were desperate in a unfamiliar city! Holiday Inn finally found us a room about an hour north of SF, across the Golden Gate Bridge in Mill Valley. So, the next day we check out, get in a taxi, and head to another hotel. Then have to come right back the next day to board the ship. Of course there were no restaurants, or anything else near our hotel. My main complaint is NCL should have given us more of a notice! Hopefully NCL will pay our the extra night for a hotel room like they said. I asked for the round trip cab fare we had to pay, and for the meal at a restaurant we had to walk about 3/4 of a mile to and from, (along a highway and feeder roads) because of no restaurants close by. I will be happy then! The way NCL sent out notice of the 1 day delay was a disaster! I got 3 texts and 3 recorded phone messages that afternoon and evening. Telling me to call a toll free number for more information. Also, there were 2 messages left on our home phone, and with our son, who was our emergency contact while cruising. NCL even called the agent we had booked our cruise with. (She was no help.) When calling the toll free number to find out more information, there was a long wait to try and speak to someone. Some of them didn't know what was going on. Not one person with NCL could tell you what time to show up. Arrived by taxi at the cruise terminal around 1:00 pm and got in the long line with everyone else. Once we made it into the building and through security, we had it made. We were in a suite and went to a special line to check in. Then a butler took us to Cagney's for a glass of champagne and lunch. Only took 1 hour. After lunch we were escorted to our room. Disembarking was also an easy process. We were given priority tags for our luggage, told breakfast would be served in Cagney's, and we could leave whenever we wanted. Our room was on the 11th floor at the front of the ship. Lucia Colon was our room steward. She was very friendly and helpful, and took good care of us and our room. Chris was the butler. He said not to bother with the concierge - "he would handle everything." Chris showed us how to use the tv order room service, book shore excursions, check account, book restaurants, etc. Everything to make his job easier. Not really impressed with Chris. Thomas was our concierge and we really liked him. He was always around visiting at breakfast and lunch at Cagney's. He answered all our questions and made recommendations when we asked. Thomas got us off early in Kona on the tender for our excursion. We did have a small electrical problem in our room. Told Chris the coffee machine didn't work, and he said we didn't know how to use it. (He didn't give us a chance to tell him, we had the same Lavazza machine exactly a year before on another NCL cruise.) Chris tries and can't get it to work, either. So, he hauls it off and will bring another to replace it. Trouble is they don't have any extras on the ship. Later on we noticed the refrigerator wasn't cooling, the plug in portable lighted mirror wasn't working, and some of the other plugs weren't working in the desk and makeup area. Told Chris about all the electrical problems the next morning, and he would check on it. That morning at the Cruise Critic Party we talked to Vanroy Roberts, Executive Housekeeper, and he said it was probably just a breaker not flipped back on. He took care of our problem ASAP! My wife still had to use an extension for her hot iron, because it wouldn't fit the plug on the vanity. Everything else was fine and Chris brought the coffee machine back. We had all our tours planned out and paid for before boarding the ship. Had four booked with Robert's of Hawaii - who are about half the price for the same big bus as NCL, The two others were booked through Marylou's on the big island. These were small groups 5 people in Hilo and 7 people in Kona, and they were in a/c comfortable vans. These were a welcome break from the large buses. We didn't eat at any of the specialty restaurants in the evening. Our last cruise we had the free specialty dining, and were not really impressed. The prices have really went up the past year, and NCL has added a service charge, too. We did enjoy the breakfast and lunches at Cagney's. Tried the buffet once at lunch, but it was crowed and hard to find a table. Had breakfast twice in Skyline dining room, and it was good. Had all our evening meals in the Skyline dining room. (Like being able to wear shorts to dinner - you are on vacation.) We liked to go to the early shows, and went to eat at 5:30 pm. Only one time our meal ran late and had to leave without dessert. That's the only time the service was bad, and the waiter kept blaming everyone else. The Cadillac Diner was ok for a quick snack. (Really missed O'Sheeans.) There was the ice cream machine at the buffet. Enjoyed all the shows. Toby Beau was my favorite entertainer, though. They had several different shows on this cruise. "Fellow Texans" from the South Texas area. Balde and Rennetta Silva even knew where our little town (Cuero) of almost 7,000 was located. "Thank you all" for saluting the Veterans on our cruise That meant a lot to me and all the others! I would like to say that we did have some problems on this cruise. The one day delay. The trip across the Pacific Ocean was rough at times. The new waiters learning the new menus. Not having all the new facilities ready on time to cruise. Etc. All is forgiven! The personnel very friendly and helpful starting at the top with Kaj Turunen, the Hotel Director who was all over the ship, making sure everything was going fine. Malu Punohu the Cruise Director was also a busy lady, going above and beyond what is expected of her. Like to say "Thank you Malu" for recognizing all the Veterans, the evening of the last show in the theatre. We were on board the Pride Of America with a great crew to look after us. NCL first offered off 25% off a future cruise for the problems they were having. NCL also refunded the cruise fare for the one day missed, on to your account that you could use or be refunded. I thought that was a great deal. After all you were cruising to paradise and being well taken care of. Then right before we embarked, NCL increased the amount to 50% off a future cruise, for the price you paid on the Pride Of America. "A BIG THANK YOU" to Klaus Lugmaier, Regional Vice President Fleet Hotel Operations who was on the cruise with us. He was there to greet us we came onboard, and I shook Klaus's hand the morning when we disembarked. I told him thanks for everything. Also, saw Klaus several times during our cruise, too. It was great to have a top management team member along. That shows NCL really does care about you! Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
Have taken this cruise 3 times now. Usually from HNL to HNL. Last time from San Francisco as POA was in dry dock for refurbishment. Gave us 5 sea days which I badly needed. (4 with a small delay because rain hampered NCL from finishing ... Read More
Have taken this cruise 3 times now. Usually from HNL to HNL. Last time from San Francisco as POA was in dry dock for refurbishment. Gave us 5 sea days which I badly needed. (4 with a small delay because rain hampered NCL from finishing work) BUT they made good for the small delay with credit for the 1 day delay, 50% credit back what we paid for Hawaii cruise toward future cruise, and hotel in SF paid for. I'm hearing complaints, but come on people, NCL had no control over weather and I'm sure would have rather not given us back all that money. Some people will complain no matter what. First of all, if you have or have not been to Hawaii, this is a simple, easy way to see the islands without having to pack and unpack, hop inter- island airplanes. Hate to waste time on something like packing, getting another plane, checking in a new hotel etc. Use this ship as a floating hotel with free food and perks like activities and you will love it. Evening entertainment was always abundant and fun. Only tip I would say is bring a jacket, blanket, towel- anything as all three trips we took, the theaters were freezing. I mean REALLY cold and I am not the only one who thought so. I always brought my airplane blanket and jacket each night. The ship has been renovated and is a fine mid size at around 2,000 pax. I actually like this rather than 4K plus passengers mega ships. Book yourself a balcony if you can afford it. More room and good scenery. Entertainment is always fine and abundant. Cruise Director Malu, is really nice and tries to make everyone welcome as is her staff. We have not eaten at any specialty restaurants, as we save our bucks for the islands. The buffet and complimentary restaurants are plenty. 5# on me and more on hubby can attest to that. Diet time now. As for the islands, we've always rented from Thrifty before we cruise. Sign up for Blue Chip and avoid any lines. You could probably do without a car if you don't want to drive on Kona and Hilo. There are always plenty of small little vans when you depart the ship that can take you around and cheaper. There is a Hapu and Hapu bus(sp?) basically a hop on and hop off bus that ran around $20 and we found that easy and not stuck on a huge Roberts type bus with many people. Do your own thing if possible, read before you go,look at reviews etc. Everyone is different from wants and needs to physical abilities. Only you know what you require. Stay a day or so before or after your cruise in HNL/Waikiki. Rent a car if you are able to go around island. Plenty of hotels, nightlife or lounging. We prefer the end closest to Diamondhead. Lots of shopping up and down the Kalakaua Ave. Have stayed at Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Place, Holiday Beachcomber and Aston Waikiki Beach. Can't complain as they all had great deals. I never book 3rd party. Always direct. If I have a problem, I can take it up with them easier. Most mentioned above have breakfast included so you can leave with a full tummy and grab some fruit or bagels etc. for your beach lunch and only pay for nice dinner. Mai Kai Catamaran coupons on groupon have always worked well for us in Waikiki. A great catamaran ride 1 1/2 hour trip that is relaxing and fun. Much cheaper on Groupon. We also like Tiki's Bar & Grill, again at the Diamondhead end before the HNL zoo. Sign up for their birthday/anniversary club and they will send you great coupons. Happy hour specials every day and live music every day. Never went to the zoo, but usually most Sunday's there is an art/craft exhibit at the near by park. Free hula show at Kuhio beach park. Google it for days/ hours. City busses are fine way to get by in HNL cheap. Parking at most hotels is impossible and expensive. Aston Banyon has the cheapest parking if you are at that end of Waikiki. But back to the ship as this is a NCL review. Love this cruise, would do it again in a heartbeat. No complaints. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
This was our second time on the POA as Hawaii is a favorite destination for us. It offers the best itinerary and is the most relaxing way to see all the islands, offering overnights in Maui and Kauai, two ports on Hawaii, and an hours ... Read More
This was our second time on the POA as Hawaii is a favorite destination for us. It offers the best itinerary and is the most relaxing way to see all the islands, offering overnights in Maui and Kauai, two ports on Hawaii, and an hours long sail by of the Na Pali coast which I don't believe anyone else offers. POA is the only cruise ship which sails strictly inter island and weekly, year round. Other lines offer only seasonal, trans Pacific cruises. However, this cruise the POA was returning from an extended dry dock in San Francisco and offered a unique 11 night return to Hawaii combined with the nearly normal inter island itinerary ( we lost the overnight in Maui ). Because it was a last minute change in dry dock location from Hawaii to San Francisco, we were able to book a suite for about what we had booked a balcony on our previous POA cruise. Too good to pass up. I have seen in other reviews that posters referred to this as a "luxury" cruise and it did not meet their expectation for a "luxury" cruise. Perhaps they were basing this on the cabin prices? When in paradise, there is a premium to pay. Hawaii is expensive and the POA is the only game in town. But Norwegian is not a luxury line, but very comparable to other mainstream lines like Royal Caribbean. If you go in with the right expectations, there is no better way to see Hawaii. In port daily, with overnights, it allows maximum time to explore the islands. This was our 9th cruise with Norwegian. We generally avoid the main dining rooms, preferring the specialty restaurants or the buffet. New menus were recently introduced. Three of the specialties are now "a la carte". Buying a 3 to 7 night dining package highly recommended. An a la carte meal including lobster which might otherwise cost $50 on an can be had for @$20 with a package, which has no restriction on items ordered. We had no problem with food temperature which others have noted, but we did notice a distinct decline in specialty food quality, particularly the meats, compared to other recent NCL sailings. We had a few less than stellar experiences with totally inept service in the specialties as well, something we had not run across previously. In general, the staff were pleasant, attentive and helpful, and appeared to be hard working. This cruise was delayed by 1 day, notifications going out only a couple days before sail date, with some people already in the port city or in transit, leaving some scrambling for hotel rooms. NCL did make good with a 1 day credit, reimbursement for 1days hotel and expenses and a credit of 50% of cruise fare paid toward a future cruise. I rated the embarkation process as poor, but in fairness, it was a 'one of' complicated by a new embarkation port and the surrounding confusion re the delay. We did not see any shows, but comments I heard were complimentry. Two theatre shows nightly, other shows in the cabaret and live music in various bars. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
This was our 4th cruise with NCL. We boarded in Vancouver and spent a wonderful 21 days with the Pearl and her staff. The ship was clean. The public areas were well tended and the public bathrooms were always clean and in good working ... Read More
This was our 4th cruise with NCL. We boarded in Vancouver and spent a wonderful 21 days with the Pearl and her staff. The ship was clean. The public areas were well tended and the public bathrooms were always clean and in good working order. The staff, from kitchen to housekeeping to fitness center could not have been more welcoming, kind, enthusiastic and helpful. Our cabin was adequate but there were times when it was a bit noisy because of the music drifting up from one of the venues. There was one problem with our shower door and I let our steward know. The door was repaired within a few hours. Food choices were overwhelming.If you could not find something to please your appetite you didn't look hard enough. Entertainment was varied and wonderful. The Pearl dance troop, singers and band were top notch. They left us singing and dancing on the way back to our cabin. Ports of call were interesting and the staff did a great job at the Panama Canal with a documentary film and an on board commentator throughout the journey through the canal. On the con side, I wish there were more enrichment opportunities, not sales pitches. Those became so annoying that I refused to purchase anything from any of the onboard vendors. There should have been more complementary gym classes. The fees for the classes were outrageous. In summary, this was a great cruise and we will be sailing with NCL again. The cost of the trip was significantly less than it would have been with any other carrier I researched. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
Overall this was a great cruise. This was our second cruise on the Pearl and our 8th cruise with NCL. The itinerary was great with the canal being the highlight and Columbia being a close second. All the crew were outstanding. The ... Read More
Overall this was a great cruise. This was our second cruise on the Pearl and our 8th cruise with NCL. The itinerary was great with the canal being the highlight and Columbia being a close second. All the crew were outstanding. The ship was always very clean and well maintained. The food is mostly very blan with not enough spicing (we forgot to bring our spices with us this time and we knew what to expect). The flounder is the best choice in the dining rooms (it is spiced very nicely). The fish is very good every where. The burgers were always excellent. The LeBistro serves excellent food, wish we could have eaten there every day. The food presentation and temperature was almost always perfect in the dining rooms. Great entertainment, totally loved the hypnotist shows, Nadeen was outstanding. The 3 Diva's and Legends shows were excellent. The drinks were very good. The embarkation in San Francisco was very good, much better than Miami. We did not play in the casino but walking through the casino did show they did a great job of reducing second hand smoke. We went on shore excursions in most ports and had fun in every port Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
This was our first cruise on NCL and we were totally delighted. The cabin steward spoke with us by name from our first meeting, always smiling & happy, our room was kept discreetly tidy, and the towel animals were always fun to see ... Read More
This was our first cruise on NCL and we were totally delighted. The cabin steward spoke with us by name from our first meeting, always smiling & happy, our room was kept discreetly tidy, and the towel animals were always fun to see each evening. The food selection was more than we could have anticipated, extremely pleased with the choices. The entertainment was the best; Tim the comedian, Jim the piano playing comedian (including the "CATS" references), and Dennis the guitar playing singer. The multi talented crew members also kept us entertained with their top notch talent. And speaking of the crew, there were several that went beyond the call of duty, always pleasant, helpful, and gracious. Disembarkation could not have been easier! I would definitely recommend NCL, cleanliness is paramount in preventing infection and they definitely stepped up to the plate. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
We have cruised Norwegian Sun, Pearl and Getaway. On the Pearl, we started our cruise in Vancouver. Embarking went very quickly and efficiently. The Pearl was a great ship with friendly, helpful people. The food was tasty and hot. ... Read More
We have cruised Norwegian Sun, Pearl and Getaway. On the Pearl, we started our cruise in Vancouver. Embarking went very quickly and efficiently. The Pearl was a great ship with friendly, helpful people. The food was tasty and hot. We ate at both the dining rooms and the buffets as some of the menus were repeating and towards the end, we ate so much and drank so much that we just did not want a full meal. The staff we would give cudos to are: Dierga, Irna and Lady were just great in the Indigo. Along with this would go a special thank you to Whitney who made sure we always were in their corner. Lincoln was our cabin stewart and he was great. Always smiling, always helpful. Our excursions were better than expected. Tendering was very slow. There was a lot of entertainment, but not excessively noisy or intrusive. There were quiet zones for us who like quiet. Some things I noted on the note to the Hotel Manager of the ship were: The 'hub' area that held the guest services, credit service, tour excursions was extremely noisy when a movie or entertainer was in progress making conversation less than great. We liked the internet station was in a reasonable quiet zone. Of course the price of wifi will always be a sore point. Cars using satellite wifi are cheaper but obviously we don't know the whole story. When summoned to the Theatre for excursions, I suggested an overhead of the actual excursion ticket with the number circled be shown for guests who do not speak English or have never cruised before. Showing them where to look would cause less concern. Then while calling the number and name of excursion, list all that have been called in the past, again for those who can not understand and have never gone through the process. Also, keep the dialogue between announcements to a minimum. The Pearl was our best ship. Sun came next and last was the Getaway. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
Day 1 (Embarkation) Well, we took a chance for the first time in 5 cruises and decided to fly into San Francisco on the same day as embarkation due to financial constraints and DH's inflexible job. We've never done it before ... Read More
Day 1 (Embarkation) Well, we took a chance for the first time in 5 cruises and decided to fly into San Francisco on the same day as embarkation due to financial constraints and DH's inflexible job. We've never done it before and despite a flawless execution without flight delays or hitches of any kind, we won't do it again unless finances absolutely dictate the necessity. Flight was on time, we got to the port by 11:30am and were on the ship by noon, but I didn't like the nagging reminder in the pit of my stomach that we were taking a chance on missing the boat, pun intended, for our greatly anticipated vacation. Embarkation in San Francisco was one of the best-run check-ins we've encountered, the personnel directing the people were professional and ran a well-organized operation. Everyone followed the rules and it was obvious NCL was running the show. Some ports get choked up with mobs of excited people trying to get on their ship; this was calm, NCL employees were professional and vacationers were happy and compliant. When we left Ft Lauderdale last year, we felt badly for the ladies and gents running that embarkation as they looked like they could barely stay on top of the mobs of people and questions and they didn't maintain order as well as they could have. These NCL guys (and gals) were pros... You just drop off your luggage before you enter the building, seems like lot of people were worried about handing over their luggage to the gents in yellow vests labeled "Porter," presumably because it was so close to the street? The gentleman letting us into the building had to keep sending people back out if they wanted to check their baggage as that's the last chance for porters. Anyway, to anyone who may worry about this step, the Porters are all great and totally official, we got our luggage almost immediately after getting our cabin so don't worry about that. Additionally, there's a rather large sign that says "Porters are salaried, tipping is not required" almost right above their heads. We still tipped, but just an FYI in case anyone is interested. DH loves the dining room for lunch on the first day, and the Seven Seas dining room was open until 2:30, but he humored his wife who just wanted a quick snack and to relax on deck. We grabbed some pasta from Pacific Heights and DH got a burger from the Great Outdoors. Both were yummy and our cabin was ready by 1:30pm. Another first for us on this cruise was an outside view room instead of a balcony. The room was a great alternative to our standard balcony choice; it was roomy with lots of storage room. We definitely missed having a balcony but it was a decent trade off for the price. We had a category D on Viking deck; I made sure we had a guaranteed big picture window instead of a porthole and boy am I glad I did. We were very satisfied with the size, layout, location right under the fitness room and spa and again... amazing amount of storage! Sailaway was CCCCCCCCCOLD!!! Having anticipated the frigid sea air from a Northern Californian evening departure, we came prepared with ski jackets and warm socks. It's a good thing too as the sea air was wonderfully crisp and the fog was heavy and cool. I adore cold weather (hailing from Arizona one tends to enjoy the occasion where heavy coats are required). Even through the thick mist, the Golden Gate Bridge was awesome! We couldn't believe it, tons of people were out on the water, wind surfing! Our first encounter with our room steward left a little to be desired, but we gave him the benefit of the doubt. It was embarkation day and we know he had tons to do with so much to do and so many people checking into their cabin with special requests. We checked into our cabin and as is our custom, quickly requested an extra cushion for the bed (I have a very bad back and just need a tiny bit of extra softness). When DH found him in the hall and asked him if he could get us one whenever he found time, the steward made a sound like "Are you serious?" and we kinda felt like we were inconveniencing him. So DH said, "Oh, definitely not right away, whenever you have time, we know you're busy right now!!" Then the steward said, "yeah, ok but later. Not now" DH said that was totally fine, he just wanted to request one before they were all gone. He thanked the gentlemen and we went back to our room. We definitely felt like he was overwhelmed so instead of dropping more requests, we figured we'd just leave a note for later. We just needed to request two more pillows and that he clean out the mini bar. We have no problem patiently waiting our turn. I left my little note filled with "thanks so much" and "we appreciate it!" so he'd know we were happy campers and then we went out exploring! That night we had our egg crate cushion, two extra pillows for my aching back and a clean fridge! We generally don't have special requests after we get our bed situation all set (oh my aching back)! Dinner was at the Seven Seas and boy did DH enjoy the service and the food. DH is appreciative of the finer things in life and had a bit more money growing up than I did. I often tease him that if we had sailed on the Titanic, he'd have been up in first class and I'd have sailed in steerage! He really enjoyed the service and attitude of the dining room staff. Princess and Carnival have their "freestyle" type dining arrangements (Anytime and My Time dining, respectively), but they aren't really set up for the option like NCL. Whenever we requested a table for two with those lines, there was a tad bit of hesitation and slight irritation. We've never let it bother us, we understand that those dining areas weren't really built for small groups of two so the staff has to adjust while still finding ways to seat the entire ship. However, it was really great here on NCL to walk in and hear "table for 2?" without anything other than a smile. DH enjoys classy service with a smile (and don't we all I guess). Food was great in the Seven Seas, I've heard mixed reviews on the food and my opinion sould probably be taken with a grain of salt as, again, woman from steerage here. DH, however, is much more if a foodie than I and he enjoyed his lamb and mahi mahi immensely. Small note to anyone interested in NCL's BAGs program. We found out, much to our chagrin and disappointment, that for some unnamed reason, this particular cruise is not facilitating the BAGS program advertised on the website. DH called NCL when we were booking flights a while back, and was assured that BAGS was offered fleetwide, "just check your airline for participation." We did all that, booked a late flight and planned for our day in San Francisco after debarkation only to be told by a snotty reception clerk named Ines Ott that this cruise doesn't offer it, it doesn't matter that the program is advertised and that you're out of luck and no, her manager (Aminta Baretto) doesn't talk to passengers. She took DH's name and cabin number and promised that Aminta would call us to explain more but we didn't hold our breath. Oh well, I guess we'll have 10 days to figure out a plan B! I think she did not enjoy her job whatsoever. As I have work experience in Customer Relations ?", I can appreciate the treatment suffered by reception/purser's desk employees, but that doesn't provide a license to do your job with a chip on your shoulder. Some cruisers are actually just asking legitimate questions and should be allowed to leave with their head still attached. We would highly recommend should you encounter Ines Ott at the reception desk, that you smile, nod your head, step backward slowly and get in another line as quick as you can! We hit the Jacuzzis at 9:45pm and found out that they close the one by the kid's pool at 10pm but the main tubs were open till midnight. Then it was back to our room where we feel asleep HARD. It was a great first day, even with the unparalleled customer service displayed by the charming Miss Ines at the Reception desk. Day 2 (Sea Day) Oh yeah baby, we slept in just a bit on our first sea day. I love sea days, very relaxing and very exciting being out in open sea. I think I should have been a sailor! Our cruise critic meet and greet took place in the Borneo room in the late morning (thanks Carole for setting it all up, it was great!). When the officers came in to meet us and chat, guess who was amongst their number? Aminta Baretto the reception manager that still had not called us back as per her promise. DH very professionally kept silent on the issue so as not to cause a scene or put her on the spot, but we so badly wanted to let her know we would be waiting for her call and see how she reacted. However, we remained classy and didn't mention it when introduced. The meet and greet was fun, we met lots of fellow cruise critics and learned a lot about each other. Fun times! We didn't do any of the ship sponsored activities during the day, we just hung out on deck and worked on our tans. There was so much space on deck 12 at the front of the ship! Even the pool areas weren't so incredibly crowded that one couldn't find an open deck chair. Wonderful! Dinner was at the Seven Seas and we cannot say enough about the service in this dining room. Kudos to the Maitre 'D and all the staff, they were awesome! The show was Que Noche by the Jean Ann Ryan Company that night and the dancers were great. Sometimes the dance troupes aren't fabulous but there was some real talent here. The choreography was much classier than the last Carnival cruise we did, these dancers didn't look like they belonged in a strip club. Although, in Carnival's defense, the dance routines resembling those from "Dirty Dancing" were on a 4 day cruise and the shows on the 8 day Carnival cruise we took in 2006 were just fabulous. I don't want to down Carnival's shows, but I have never been wowed by dancers before. [Useless bit of info -- there were two dance couples in NCL's troupe, one was a set of professional ballroom dancers and the other couple was married. The married duo had super chemistry, he was a choreographer and she a dancer and they met on NCL -- very cool. They were all simply incredible.] Ahhhh... wonderful sleep and looking forward to our next sea day! We had a very cute towel stingray when we made our way back to the cabin, yay for towel animals! Day 3 (Sea Day) Well, woke up early enough to hit the gym while DH was sleeping. It was a smallish facility but not overly crowded at 7am. After a nice workout I hit the sauna at the spa and MAN!! It was the hottest sauna I've ever been in so enter with care. We hit deck 12 again for some sun and to work on our tans. Weather was GORGEOUS, around 75, and the sun was wonderful. We hung out until about 2pm and then ordered room service in our cabin for lunch. Unfortunately for DH, the late lunch left us too full to indulge in a full dining room dinner so we grabbed some wings and spinach artichoke dip at the Sports Grill and went to the little deck outside the Observation Lounge... Oh my goodness there are some great panoramic views on this ship! The stern decks as well as the observation decks in the front are amazing for views. They are a MUST-SEE for this ship. One thing we'd begun to notice is that the ship felt empty most of the time. I don't know where people would run off to, but there's a never-crowded feeling, plenty of places to sit in all the public rooms and the decks always had empty seats. The show this night was the comedic magic show of Jean Pierre Parent and he was hilarious... there were some risqué innuendo but it went over the heads of the handful of kids in the audience. Most of it was implied, not stated so it was probably ok for most ages. His magic tricks were really amazing, our jaws dropped on several occasions. Day 4 (Sea Day) Slept almost all morning and afternoon, stayed in our cabin chillaxin' and had room service. Finally ventured out at 3pm to sign up for the murder mystery dinner on the port day of Puerta Vallarta. Unfortunately, our room steward's overwhelming and irritable day embarkation day didn't end on day 1. Today we had another less than stellar encounter. When I left my room at 3pm, I assumed it was too late for cleaning. However, I was chased down by our steward as he asked if I wanted him to service my room. I said, "Sure, towels and whatever you have time for." Then he made the sound again, the sound we've all heard teenagers make (or perhaps have been guilty of making ourselves as teens) right after Mom says to take out the trash. That little sigh to let Mom know you had other plans in mind. Of course, on the rare occasions I did that as a teen, I, uh... was, shall I say "discouraged" from having a bad attitude by some good, old-fashioned discipline! ? My momma didn't raise no slacker! Anyway, our steward made that noise again, like he was being inconvenienced and said, "well, um... ok, just towels?" I was kinda in a rush to meet DH upstairs but turned back and said, "Yes please, whatever you have time for." Then he made another little sound that made it obvious I had chosen unwisely and said, "Well, I can't really do your room because I get off at 3pm." Then it dawned on me, it was 3:02pm and he wanted me both to feel badly for staying in my room for so long and to let him off the hook to do anything to my room and was very passive aggressively applying a guilt trip. Hey, first of all, the guy chased ME down. I didn't see him and if he was off the clock, he could have just let me walk away. Secondly, I've worked in and managed Housekeeping so I definitely can relate to that last person that weasels out of their room RIGHT as I was getting off the clock. I can feel his disappointment, but I also know it takes a grand total of 10-15 minutes to completely service a "stay-over"room and when you're hoping for that extra tip, it's kinda worth it to make someone's stay extra special. I also know that we would NEVER make a guest feel anything other than special to be visiting our facility. It's called guest relations and its service with a smile. It was obvious that he didn't want to work an extra 10 mins, and that was fine, but I really don't appreciate being chased down the hall to be made to feel guilty about it. If he's off then he's off, it's no skin off my nose. As this was the second time he made us feel we were inconveniencing him just by our sleeping in one of his rooms, I decided to be kind but firmly leave the ball I his court. If he wanted off the hook he could gracefully take himself off; I wanted him to choose the type of service he wished to provide. I didn't get mad, simply smiled and gently said, "If you're off now and can't do my room, why did you chase me down to ask if I wanted you to do my room? Like I said, you can do whatever you feel that you have time for. Ok? Thanks so much!" Then I smiled and started to leave again and he stopped me AGAIN! I was starting to really feel like he was actually wanting to pick a fight now but I still turned around smiling. "He said, "No ma'am, I just wanted to find out if you wanted towels cuz I'm off at 3pm." I said, "Yes please, like I said before, you do whatever you feel you have time for, which will be great, thanks! I'm going to head upstairs now ok?" Then he kinda gave up at that point when he saw I was not going to let him off the hook, he would have to choose if he wanted to do the bare minimum or go above the call of duty. I was not expecting anything extra at all, I just didn't appreciate his following me, calling out to me to ask me if I wanted something he had no intention of providing. It would have been perfectly acceptable to call out to me and say "Lisa, heads up, I'm off now so I can't clean your room but would you like fresh towels before I clock out?" I would have said, "Absolutely, thanks so much!" and that would have been the end of it. Upon our return that afternoon, we came back to clean towels and that's all. It's what I expected but still made me smile, I knew he never had any intention to do anything other than replace my towels, but still followed me down the hall keeping me from my plans to engage me in a conversation that at minimum (had I been a pushover), would have made me feel badly for leaving my room right when he was getting off. If I pulled that stunt and put a guest through all that hassle for nothing, I'd be afraid they'd complain about me or lower my tips (which we were NOT going to do, we are big believers in tipping). Oh well, poor gent was not liking his job and that was obvious. I'd hate to be stuck in a job I hated so I can feel for him. Luckily we're not high maintenance so he'd get no special requests from us and we'll just watch the clock and either be out by 3pm or long afterwards! Back to having fun! Dinner tonight was our anniversary package dinner at Le Bistro. Oh man was DH a happy camper. We did the rib eye dinner for two and closed it out with the fondue. Such wonder staff in the dining rooms so far, we're really noticing the difference here at NCL and are loving it. We had about 4 people serving us and each one made us feel like we were the only ones in the room, they were friendly, stopped to chat, made sure our water glasses were full at all times and the food was awesome! Yummy!! Loved Le Bistro, to be sure! Day 5 (Topolobampo) Aha, small little port where there's not much to see. Since we already knew there wasn't really a good reason to see Topolobampo or even Los Mochis, we had originally planned on heading over to Maviri Beach to hang out. However, it was so hot and we were in the "relax" zone so we decided just to stay on the ship. Boy are we glad we did too, the pool area was comfortably empty and the pool was an amazing temperature. We ate lunch in the dining room and went to our cabin to take an afternoon nap. I got up and worked out while DH took the chance to get off the ship and look at the little tent structures local vendors set up alongside the ship. We met another couple on a different port day that raved about NCL's Maviri Beach Getaway excursion. We weren't sure it would be worth it but they said it was awesome for their family of four (two kids aged 5 and 9) and it sounded like something we would have enjoyed for the money as well. They said the activities and food were great and they had a blast. A little heads-up in case anyone is interested. That night a local dance crew came on board to perform for us and it was great. They had a little bit of narration in between dances to explain the moves and the meaning behind their costumes and moves. It was a really great cultural experience. Day 6 (La Paz) Wow, the water was really pretty here in La Paz, just as we had hoped it to be. We'd planned on taking the free shuttle to Tecolote Beach and the port layout was very clear with a friendly lady guiding people to the correct line. There were signs pointing the way as well as indicating what times the shuttles were arriving and departing. The whole setup was very clean and well executed. Our shuttle bus had great air conditioning and it was a nice 15 minute ride to Tecolote. The water was WOW... so pretty and white sandy beaches were almost clear of rocks. No water shoes necessary here; just white powder sand with a few pebbles here and there. The entrance to the water was soft and clean, the water was turquoise and blue. I told DH if you just look at the water you almost believe you're in the Caribbean, then if you look up at the surrounding mountains it's extremely obvious you're deep in the desert. Very cool contrast for us Arizona desert rats. Here DH and I finally got a little burned, we'd been out sunning for the past three days without any hint of pink but today it finally caught up with us. Not too bad, just a little crispy! Tomorrow is ziplining anyway so we'll be pretty well covered up and we'll have to break out the SPF 30. We had a late lunch so I wasn't that hungry but DH and I hit the main dining room. Again with the dining room service! They're all just so nice and happy and smiling and make each night a great and relaxing experience. So far we're liking the Seven Seas dining room the best, not sure why but we love the staff so maybe we just keep coming back for that reason. Very top notch! We are late night Jacuzzi hoppers and have begun noticing that our pool towels don't get changed even though we leave the on the bathroom floor as instructed by the little card in our room. We find all our other towels replaced and our wet pool towels hanging on the door. You have the option of changing them at the pool or leaving them on your bathroom floor to get dry ones. As we have been (and know we will be in the upcoming days) using our towels until right before dinner and again after the show, we don't always have the ability to change our own towels at the pool since they close during dinner and the pools/Jacuzzis are open til midnight. Consequently, we need to have them replaced with our other towels by our steward. Sigh. Yes, the need for another request darnit. We were hoping to get through the week without further bothering our frustrating steward. Again, so as not to appear confrontational, I left a little note the day prior, asking if he could replace our pool towels when they were on the floor since the towels don't dry out quickly and we're finding wet towels when we go on our late night Jacuzzi runs. After dinner this night we were headed back to our room to grab our suits and hit the hot tubs when, again, our room steward comes down the hall to meet us as we're swiping our card to enter our stateroom. He proceeded to tell us that he replaced our pool towels this once for us but can't do it anymore because he may not have any pool towels left on his cart in the future. He said we should exchange them ourselves at the pool shop. I said, "Well, the card in our room says to either exchange them at the shop or leave them on the bathroom floor. I'm sure you can grab a couple extra for us." The room steward said again, "well, if I don't room on my cart then I can't replace them for you." I was done arguing with this gentleman, so before DH could get involved (DH does NOT like poor customer service), I just smiled at our steward and said, "Well, if we can't get to the pool shop when it's open, we'll leave our towels on the floor and let you replace them as per normal procedures. I have full confidence in your ability to figure out how to get more towels on your cart." We smiled at him again and went into our room. We made sure to try and change our towels ourselves the following day to show him we weren't being difficult and from then on guess what? We had clean, dry pool towels whenever we left them on the floor. We always smiled at him and said hi too each time we met him in the halls, but thankfully did not have to ask him for anything else during our trip. This was the last of the less than amazing encounters we had with any NCL staff, everyone else was AMAZING!! Day 7 (Mazatlan) Today was ziplining/parasailing day and I woke up with a sore throat and the beginnings of a chest cold. Although I was bummed, there was no way I was missing the long anticipated zipline excursion! We had a morning timeslot and this required us to be among the first few off the ship. We were scheduled to dock at 8am and had to be on a taxi by 8:40 at the latest. After our eastern Caribbean cruise last year where the boat was 45 mins late clearing customs in Barbados, we were particularly interested in getting downstairs and at the front of the line in case of a repeat customs performance. Of course we had a backup plan, but were hoping Plan A worked successfully. As we were sitting alone in the stairwell next to the Medical Center (apparently no one wanted to get off at 8am in Mazatlan) we heard over the loudspeaker that a "Code Alpha" was being called for a stateroom. We correctly guessed that someone needed urgent medical attention as about 10 NCL staff members rushed downstairs and into the Medical center, grabbing packs, backboards and a defibrillator and rushing back upstairs via elevator. We didn't hear anything after that and could only hear when the team came back downstairs into the medical center. We heard it was a woman but no details so we hope she was ok! Not only did we clear customs precisely on time, we caught a taxi and were at our check-in point 45 minutes EARLY!! It was only 8:20 in the morning, but was already HOT and HUMID!! We checked in at the Huana Coa office (about 4 or 5 doors to the right of the Howard Johnson hotel in the Golden Zone. We booked through Shore Trips and paid only $75 pp versus the ship's price of $125pp. Since the taxi only cost $10 total for the both of us and Huana Coa typically drops you off at the pier to ensure your timely return to the ship, it's an awesome deal to book either direct with Huana Coa, or through Shore Trips. It was the exact same tour NCL offered with the same operator for much cheaper. Huana Coa was INCREDIBLE. They are a top notch organization with truly wonderful staff. I should preface my review with some background. While I'm not a wild thrill seeker, I do enjoy a moderate amount of adrenaline and will go on most roller coasters. Others in our party were not as avid coaster fans with somewhat of a fear of heights and consequently, their experience was a little difference. They still did the entire zipline course with the assistance of the fabulous staff, but they enjoyed it significantly less than DH and I. But, I'm getting ahead of myself, let me back up. Since we arrived so early, we met the owner at the office and he chatted with us for about a half hour, showing us his plans for future expansion and talked about the safety training, inspections and certification process his organization has been through. They continues to train and go through certification inspections in order to provide the best adventure tour possible. For their zipline, they use a double cable setup as well as a three safety connections. Basically, three separate connections would have to fail for any accidents to happen. On top of that, all the harnesses, cables, clips and all equipment is inspected before and after each use, all equipment is imported from top suppliers and each cable is able to support like 11 tons of weight so the entire group of 20 people could technically do a tandem run with no problem. As if all that wasn't enough, before you do your first run, you get checked and re-checked by at least 4 people before you even get in line for the first platform. I really liked this method since the more eyes you have on your gear, the chances that something would be missed is basically impossible. You are clipped to a safety line the entire time, from the moment you get in line you are clipped to the rope, then you step on the platform and while you're attached to the zipline, your third safety clippy thing remains attached to the safety rope. As soon as you're securely hooked up to the cable, your third safety line is then unattached from the safety line and attached to the cable. At no time during the entire tour are you left unattached to a safety line. You are checked before and after each run as well by 2 or 3 different people. The staff was securely in charge, they were amazingly friendly, but commanding (in a good way). The lead guide, Chino, made absolutely sure everyone was listening and paying attention during the safety orientation. He'd ask funny trick questions every now and then to make sure people weren't just saying "Yes" or "Ok" to get through his speech. Very nicely executed. You do have to brake to slow yourself down, you are provided with leather gloves and you just gently pull down on one of the cables to slow yourself and the guides tell you when and where to do it so it's extremely easy and not worrisome in the least. It was an incredible tour and one I'd recommend to everyone. One of the guides brought her daughter, aged 5, and she was the cutest, sweetest darling EVER! She loved tandem riding on the zipline and her mom rocked! For the more nervous of our group, the guides were very helpful, encouraging, and took them tandem when necessary. For the steeper, faster lines where the ability to brake yourself was necessary, they took the more fearful zippers across themselves. The last platform is about 20 feet off the ground and you get rappelled down to the ground by the staff. Very smooth too, I must add. I think this is a fabulous, mild excursion that any age can handle. My mom isn't a huge excitement fan but I'd take her in a heartbeat! The staff truly made this tour extra special, they were so personable and fun to hang out with. Two thumbs enthusiastically up! One small caveat I hate stating because I loved the tour so much, but 5 of us had to be carted around in a suburban without air conditioning. The majority of the group had an air conditioned tour van but I'm not sure why 5 of us were relegated to the Suburban unless they were overbooked. There are absolutely no air conditioned buildings and you have to walk for about 10 mins or so in the heat to get back to the cars from your last platform. After the zipline they take you to the tequila distillery and provide a quick informative tour followed by tequila tasting. This distillery is also lacking air conditioning of any kind, so that meant we were without any type of reprieve from the oppressive heat and humidity for 5 ½ hours (45 min drive to and from, prep, zipline, walk, tequila factory). If you have a low tolerance for heat (as I do) it could be really taxing, I had to work not to get irritable (plus I was getting sick), but my hubby couldn't tell I was getting overheated so I must have pulled it off. Everyone in the tour was obviously overheated so you may want to check with the main office when you book if you think it's important that you are placed in the air conditioned vehicle. I would think this much heat exposure without an air conditioned vehicle to break things up, it could negatively impact the experience and this is too great a tour to miss! Even saying that, the 5 of us in the Suburban had an amazing time and loved the tour, even being beat afterward from the hot and muggy day. After our tour, the guide kindly dropped DH and I at El Cid where we were to find our parasailing operator. We parasailed from the beach, it was so cool and our instructor Raul took great care of us. He and his two assistants got us all hooked up and prepped and both flights went off without a hitch. It was both of our first time parasailing and we LOVED it! It's so quiet up there and felt like we were floating on the breeze, I think it would be fun to take a longer flight next time; it was totally worth the $40pp we paid. By this time I was sicker than a dog (colds go straight to my chest), it now hurt to talk and I could feel my airways swelling closed so breathing was getting harder. I finally let DH in on my rapidly declining health status and he took me straight back to the ship with a stop by a local pharmacy to grab some meds. He put me to bed and drugged up on expectorant, I went to sleep with a happy smile on my face. What a great day (and a great hubby)! Day 8 (Puerta Vallarta) Well, I am definitely still sick today but I feel much better than last night. Sadly, I know that unless I rest and hop up on expectorant, this chest cold will turn right into bronchitis (all my chest colds do, blah), . So this ruled out our planned visit to our all-inclusive resort choice for this trip, Dreams Resort. While I'm bummed, I'm so glad I didn't miss the ziplining/parasailing day. That would have been worse. Sorry all, I'm not much help for PV this trip. DH went out and took some pictures, but he didn't want to do an excursion without me so we spent the day resting and napping. Remember our bummer news about our BAGS program that for some unidentified reason wasn't being offered for our cruise? Well, we never did get that promised call from Aminta the Guest Services Manager, but DH ran into the Hotel Director in the halls today. Since he'd met the Hotel Director in our meet and greet, they chatted for a few mins and DH asked him about the BAGS program and why it wasn't being offered. DH mentioned the same info he'd tried to tell Miss Inez Ott on our first day and instead of being treated rudely, the Hotel Director empathized with our situation and said, "Hey, you know what, give me your stateroom number and let me at least see if there's anything we can do to help you." WOW, talk about awesome and above the call of duty. DH was completely happy that he was even trying to find an alternative for us. Even if nothing came of this, it was so great to at least be empathized with and to have someone at least look and see if there were any other options for us. We really appreciated him and I wish I could remember his name. DH said you could tell he truly wanted everyone's cruise to be special. Day 9 (Cabo San Lucas) Today I decided that I was feeling good enough to do the excursion we booked for Cabo, it was a sailing/snorkeling tour in a covered Catamaran. I figured I'd just grab a seat in the shade and stay put enjoying the day while DH snorkeled since I wasn't coughing or sneezing germs around. There's no way I was going to ruin anyone else's vacation and I felt confident that I was not contagious. It was AWESOME! The weather was fantastic, the boat was better than I imagined, and it was definitely worth the price. It was through Cabo Escape and the boat was a very large two deck catamaran, but the entire first deck was all covered with tables and benches. Top deck was a sun deck big enough for the whole group to do a dance party on the way back. Open bar and a yummy deli lunch was included with lots of fresh, homemade guacamole and salsa. Great music and it was not too loud for those not in the "party hearty" mode. We are not drinkers and felt totally comfortable with the atmosphere -- this was not a booze cruise, but if you wanted to drink and have fun you could. It was cool, it's almost as if they mixed the music so it was upbeat on the way out to Chileno Bay to snorkel, quiet and relaxing while at the snorkel site (perhaps for those who were chillin on the boat?), and then more of a dance mix for the way back. DH took lots of pictures and videos with our underwater camera and the visibility was actually pretty good for Mexico, I was pleasantly surprised. I had a great day, but one small thing I should mention so people can be aware of the possibility. Our tour was scheduled to return by 2:30 and our ship was originally scheduled to leave at 4pm. I figured the ship would schedule the last tender at 3:30 so that would give us a whole hour in case the tour went over. Well, the ship changed its departure time to 3:30 with our last tender at 3pm and Cabo Escape was 35 mins late returning! We pulled into the dock around 3:05 or 3:10. Needless to say we were running back to our tender point which, as luck would have it, was all the way on the opposite side of the marina. HA! We got on the tender and then waited with another couple for the last of the shore excursion staff and got back on the ship by 3:20. We weren't even the last people on board either, apparently we pulled up anchor, and then two last tenders each ferried a full group back right before we left. Probably a NCL sponsored tour that went over. With 5 ships in port that day, each leaving in half hour intervals, I can't imagine us waiting for latecomers unless they were in an NCL tour. At least, I sure wouldn't want to chance it! ? All in all, Cabo was awesome and I was so glad I took a chance and went on the excursion. Day 10 (Sea Day) Oh boy, I slept all day -- poor DH. Didn't get to go around and take more pictures of the ship! Day 11 (Sea Day) My goodness, I woke up to such powerful rocking this last sea day! The swells were 4.5-7 feet and termed "moderate" seas by the bridge. As we were in forward room, of course we got amazing movement and I had to start popping the Dramamine to keep down the queasiness. This was the only day I really could feel the lack of our usual balcony room, if I feel queasy I usually go out for some fresh air and feel right as rain in no time. Since I had been in bed for the prior day, I didn't really want to get dressed, showered, fix my hair and makeup just for some fresh air to quell the rising nausea and a balcony would sure have come in handy. I finally just sucked it up and got ready for a deck visit. DH and I went to the top and I felt tons better and we got an amazing view of the seasaw that was our ship. I honestly haven't seen so much movement before, it was awesome! There were lots of people out and about so it wasn't bad for most, I guess, I think the fact that I kept to my forward room for most of the day is what prompted the motion sickness. But, we knew that going into the deal but couldn't pass up the price of our forward, ocean view room this time out (and we don't regret our decision either). Late afternoon was the last Bingo game and we went and joined in the fun. They had these electronic handsets that looked fabulous (DH only bought paper cards in an attempt to save some cash), I would highly recommend using them as everyone who did looked much more at ease than the rest of us who were keeping a close eye on our stacks of paper cards. It was lots of fun, even though we didn't even get close to Bingo. We'll definitely do it again. Surprise, surprise, we heard from Gary, the Assistant Guest Relations Manager this afternoon and GUESS WHAT?!! They came up with an alternative for us since they weren't doing the BAGS program! I won't go into detail because the Sun is only doing this itinerary three more times and then no ships porting out of San Francisco for the foreseeable future, but it enabled us to do some sightseeing in San Francisco as we'd originally planned and it was fabulous news. We are truly impressed with how the situation was handled and we did NOT have to complain either, I might add. The Hotel Director never knew about DH's experience with the Reception Desk, just took it upon himself to make sure one cruiser felt special and cared for. I must take this time to point out a couple amazing kudos for the NCL dining venue teams. Since I'd been sick for so many evenings, DH had been to dinner by himself. He decided to ask the first evening if he could order dinner for me and take it to me in my room (I was trying to keep my germs to myself and figured I'd eat room service or have him bring me buffet food). Absolutely 100% of the dining venues my hubby visited each night and 100% of the staff graciously and gladly gave DH anything he wanted to bring me with trays and covers. It was way beyond what I would have thought to ask for and a couple people even insisted on carrying the trays up to our room even though DH said it wasn't necessary. Seriously, how kind and wonderful it was to be taken care of so fully. DH ate again at Le Bistro one evening and they let him order for me as well (of course we paid the cover charge). It was just so wonderful of the staff since it's not like I was without options with the buffets and room service available. So amazing!! Day 12 (Disembarkation) Everything went smoothly and according to schedule for disembarkation and we left this wonderful ship and crew on time. Sadly, of course, but on time. It was a great cruise and we absolutely will sail NCL again. I'm very excited to try a newer ship with more spa amenities so I can try out a Spa Pass. What a great team and a great ship... Thanks NCL!! P.S. I must add here that DH confessed to me after we got home that he was disappointed a bit in the food quality but loved everything else. So far he prefers Princess for the food whereas I couldn't tell the difference. He is more of a foodie than I am but he still enjoyed the food - just wasn't wowed. I, however, was very happy with our trip and continue to recommend the line to my friends and clients. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
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