33 Norwegian Sun Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

My wife and I (veteran cruisers who have sailed on multiple different cruise lines) took the NCL Sun on a 15-day repositioning from Miami to Los Angeles through the Panama Canal. As discussed below, our experience on the Sun was mixed, ... Read More
My wife and I (veteran cruisers who have sailed on multiple different cruise lines) took the NCL Sun on a 15-day repositioning from Miami to Los Angeles through the Panama Canal. As discussed below, our experience on the Sun was mixed, but mostly positive. A lengthy, detailed review follows. Embarkation was a breeze. We never arrive early, 'cause that is when everyone else arrives. Instead, we arrived about 2 PM for the 5 PM departure, and we were all checked in and in our cabin in less than 20 minutes. We had an inside cabin, number 9134. The cabin was clean and spacious, well-appointed and with a lot of storage. It had a couch and enough floor space that one could even do some sit-ups to try to burn off some of that plentiful food. The room was well soundproofed, with no discernible noise from above, below, the adjacent rooms, or the hallway. My wife said, however, that the hairdryer was worthless. Its one of those wall mounted units, and it lacked power, did not heat up enough, and it was mounted over the toilet in such a way that you could not use both the mirror and the dryer at the same time. So bring your own hairdryer! And our cabin steward was great. But the stewards are always great, on all the cruises we have ever been on! The ship itself was midsized. The ship hardly rocked the entire trip, smoothest cruise ever. Of course, that probably has more to do with the weather than the ship itself. The ship was well maintained, and the décor was nice, with little sign of wear and tear. The Sun did not have as many activity choices as the larger ships, but the tradeoff is that you can reach everything on the Sun without walking forever like you do on the larger ships. We only went to a few of the Sun's evening shows, and we enjoyed Judy Kolba, a singer/comedian, and another comedian named Rex Havens. Some thoughts about the food service, and then a discussion of the food itself. In the sit-down dining rooms NCL uses Freestyle dining, meaning you can go to either of their two regular restaurants at any time they are open without pre-assigned seating times or table companions. The advantages of freestyle dining over traditional, assigned dining is, of course, the flexibility freestyle offers. The disadvantages of freestyle dining in comparison with assigned dining are potentially twofold: 1) you may have to wait for a table, and 2) you might get poorer service because you don't get to know your table staff well and they are not competing directly for your tip money. However, we found the freestyle dining on the Sun to be very well run and without any of these disadvantages. We generally ate between 6 and 6:40 PM, and never had to wait more than two or three minutes for a table. Also, our servers each night were pleasant and efficient. Of course, with freestyle dining you don't get to know your tablemates that well, since you switch them up very night. But there is always the chance that, in traditional dining, you will be assigned seating with someone you don't care for, and have to spend the entire trip eating with them. So, all-in-all, we liked the Sun's freestyle dining. More and more cruise lines are offering this besides NCL. The buffet arrangement on the Sun, however, is strange and does not seem to work well. The Sun doesn't have clearly marked, separate buffet stations like we have seen on other cruise ships. Instead, the Sun has three separate buffet lines, with the main one running along the starboard aft, and the other two smaller buffet lines hidden in the aft part of the ship. The main buffet line is long and snaking, and the food items are arranged sort of haphazardly along the line. For example, the desserts come before the Wok cooking area, what is up with that? And it is not always clear when or how you can skip portions of the main line, and so the line often backed up at the buffet entrance, which was a soup area that required assistance from behind the counter. Also, the buffet always seemed crowded, because the aisles were narrow and we were always bumping into people. As I said, we found this very strange. NCL obviously knows how to set up a proper buffet area, because the buffet on the NCL's Spirit (which we sailed on last fall) was very nicely set-up. And now some thoughts on food quality, a particularly important area on a long cruise such as the Panama Canal repositioning! My wife and I thought the food on the Sun was generally good. We all have certain foods we eat or don't eat, and sometimes on a ship like this you don't know what they are going to offer, and whether it will be well prepared. For me, then, it is important that the regular dining room have a decent every-day steak option, and the Sun did not disappoint. The Rib Eye in the Seven Seas dining room was properly cooked to Medium (as I requested), and it was tender and flavorful. I ordered it several times throughout the trip as I was sometimes unsure of the other offerings, and the steak was always good. It was particularly good in comparison with the every-day steak option on other cruises we have been on, such as the top sirloin we go on the RCL Navigator. Uggh. Also, I like Caesar Salad, but sometimes other cruise lines we have used cut corners in preparing the Caesar. Not on the Sun. Every Caesar I had on the Sun was made from fresh romaine lettuce, had freshly prepared Caesar salad dressing (i.e. with egg, garlic, oil, anchovies, and parmesan), and was topped with plentiful shaved parmesan cheese. Eaten plain, or sometimes topped with chicken or shrimp, and you have the very definition of "Yum.” Bravo. Also memorable was the Surf and Turf night " the steaks and lobster were both very well prepared. As for breakfast, we usually ate in the buffet. The layout of the buffet is not particularly good, with long serving lines that cause backups and crowded sections. Breakfast options in the buffet were limited, but the things I like (scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, potatoes, cereal, and cottage cheese) were mostly well prepared and tasty. Well, except that the cottage cheese became more like ricotta cheese on the last few days of the trip. I don't like the restrictive alcohol policies that most cruise lines, including NCL, have. Given that you are not supposed to bring alcohol on board, and that they have a monopoly on alcohol sales, however, the Sun's wine packages were not too bad. We ordered the eight bottle premium package for $248 (average of $31 a bottle), and the wine was acceptable and a decent value for that price. NCL also had a pre-cruise special where if you prepaid for at least three specialty restaurant dinners, they would give you a discount and a free bottle of wine. We took advantage of that package, and my thoughts on the specialty restaurants follows. The service we received in all the specialty restaurants was spectacular (kudos to Beverly, the Maitre' De for the 12th deck restaurants). In East Meets West Steakhouse, the ambience and all the food was just about perfect. The steakhouse was trying out a new menu with special certified Angus beef, and it was excellent. In Le Bistro, the French restaurant, the food was generally good. The mussels in cream sauce were to die for, and the crème brule heavenly. On the flip side, for some reason they now put bread crumbs in the escargot garlic butter, which is not a good idea! Also, the flourless chocolate cake was poor. The Teppanyaki restaurant was fun (think Benni Hanna), as these restaurants always are. They do need to go easy, though, in putting soy sauce on the lobster, because lobster is already salty. As for Il Adagio, the Italian Restaurant, it was difficult to find, but the food was good. The cruise stopped in several ports. We took ships tours in two ports (Cartagena, Colombia and Hualtuco, Mexico), and did few things on our own in another port (Cabo San Lucas), and I discuss those three ports and associated tours in the Cruise Critic ports section. In two other ports (Puntarenas and Puerto Vallarta) we took private tours, and I review those tours separately (and in detail) on TripAdvisor. As for the Panama Canal Transit (not technically a port stop), it is a bucket list thing that everyone should consider doing at least once. It takes about ten hours to go through the Canal from Atlantic to Pacific, and during that time there is always something interesting to see from the port operations on both sides of the canal, the locks themselves, the other ships, the engines that line the ships up in the canal, the bridges, the large lakes and beautiful rain forested islands, and the dredging and canal maintenance operations. We had the added bonus of all the activity surrounding the ongoing Canal Expansion, a seven year project scheduled to be completed in late 2014 or 2015. NCL provided an expert who came on over the PA system and discussed the history and ongoing activities in the Canal Zone. Very well done. At the end of the cruise, we decided to take the option of disembarking early and rolling our own luggage off the boat. The boat was cleared for disembarking at 7:55 AM, and less than 20 minutes later we were off the ship, through customs, and looking for our shuttle to the airport. In other words, this was the quickest we have ever gotten through a cruise disembarkation. Fantastic! Ok, for those few people still reading this long review, I will close with a few thoughts about the casino or, more specifically, the poker table. I love to play poker, and have played in many casinos, including ship casinos on Princess, RCL, and Carnival. In comparison with other casinos, the NCL poker operation is unacceptable. Basically, the house take (called the "rake) on the NCL Sun is just way too large, for both their tournaments and their cash games. For example, in cash poker games, most casinos on land take 10% of each pot, up to a maximum of four or five dollars per hand. The other cruise lines have slightly higher rakes than what you find on land. The NCL Sun, however, took 10% up to a whopping $25 a hand! That is simply crazy, since several times an hour the individual pots will go up to between $100 and $200 at the ½ NL cash Texas Hold'em game being offered. At such a high rake, over the course of a few hours only the house can expect to win -- not any of the players! And this rake probably explains why no one was playing at the Sun's cash game, as far as I could tell " which is the worst possible situation for both the ship and the poker players! If NCL's overhead associated with using live poker dealers is too high and so won't support a lower rake, NCL should consider going to the electronic poker tables found on most other cruise lines. Those electronic tables have a much more reasonable per-hand rake cap (usually 5 or 6 dollars), and this encourages people to play (On Carnival, for example, I played on the PokerPro electronic poker table an average of three to four hours a day every sea day). Just as importantly, a more reasonable poker rake will encourage poker players to book future Norwegian cruises. Poker is my favorite activity aboard ship, and so I, for one, will likely NOT take a Norwegian cruise again unless and until they improve their poker operation. And this is unfortunate, as most other aspects of the NCL cruise experience are very good. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
Let's start with embarkation: Smooth, carefree and incredibly quick! The ship: older, smaller very well decorated with all the charm of a very classy ship you saw in the day when ships were built for comfort and not just for how ... Read More
Let's start with embarkation: Smooth, carefree and incredibly quick! The ship: older, smaller very well decorated with all the charm of a very classy ship you saw in the day when ships were built for comfort and not just for how many people can fit for the maximum money making. The cabin: very large, the largest I have been in on any other ships, lots of closets and drawers. The bathroom adequate and contrary to other reviews the shower was a great size with the best water pressure I have ever had. Emmanuel, our cabin steward was amazing! Always made our cabin feel like a home. The ship had beautiful teak decks with a great layout, not so big that it takes 15 mins to get anywhere. Very well maintained and super clean. The crew: I can' t sing enough praises! They are amazing, always wearing smiles, remembering names and wanting to assist in every way. The food: Great and definitely plentiful, always cooked to order and just the way you wanted it. My hats off to the Executive chef, his crew and Christian the Restaurant Manager. The hostess always remembered our name and cabin after the first meeting, incredible! Nicoletta and Esperaza were the servers we always requested, they are a team that can't be beaten perfect every time. Me Bistro, outstanding!!!!! Beverly, Beverly and Alma are the best and the food could not have been better :-). I still am having dreams about the Escargot and Chocolate Napoleon! The ships officers were always present around the ship and always willing to stop and chat, never to busy and always incredibly pleasant. All in all, I would have to say " The best ship and best cruise I have been on" Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
My wife and I cruised the Sun during the 19 day Panama Canal repositioning cruise from Miami to Vancouver. The following is a long day-by-day review of our trip. Day 1 - Miami, FL First of all I'm happy to report that Freestyle 2.0 ... Read More
My wife and I cruised the Sun during the 19 day Panama Canal repositioning cruise from Miami to Vancouver. The following is a long day-by-day review of our trip. Day 1 - Miami, FL First of all I'm happy to report that Freestyle 2.0 has been implemented for the most part. The first sign of it is in the Miami terminal where they now have a separate check-in line for balcony and mini-suite guests. Not that it mattered because at 12:30, all of the lines were very long. We didn't have to stand in those lines anyway because we had an aft AC penthouse and were taken into a private room to complete the sign up process, meet Erika the concierge, and be escorted onto the ship. Being able to bypass the crowd was a definite perk on a busy day like today. When we got onboard, everyone was given the welcome glass of bubbly. You have a choice of champagne or a mimosa. Then we were met by our butler Roland who escorted us to our cabin, which is beautiful. The separate living room will be great to have for such a long cruise, and the bedding has been upgraded as promised. The bed itself is comfortable. The mattresses don't sag in the middle and at least ours don't need the egg crate toppers that are recommended by other threads. The mattresses have not been replaced yet, more on that later. There's lots of storage space, which is good because we brought a lot of stuff, and there are plenty of toiletries in the bathroom. The large wraparound balcony is soot free so far. We went to Four Seasons for lunch at 1:30. It wasn't crowded at all. The service was very professional and the food was fine. The chilled banana with mango soup was delish! NCL provides a lot of samples on embarkation day. We stopped in Il Adagio after lunch because a new 2.0 feature is the Taste of Freestyle, where some of the specialty restaurants have cold appetizers and desserts samples. After sampling a few desserts we went up to the spa. When you ask for a spa tour during embarkation, all of the masseuses are available to give you a little sample. I had one rubbing a hot stone on my arm while another was given my neck and shoulders a deep tissue massage for a few minutes. I even tried an acupuncture needle in my forearm. Didn't feel a thing. We were also escorted thru the spa to see the different treatment rooms, the salon and the gym. Back in our room around 4pm but our luggage wasn't there yet. An announcement was made at 4:30 that our departure was being delayed because they were just finishing repairs to one of the bow thrusters. We got our bags around 5:30 and the ship finally left at 6:45. By the time we had unpacked and went to the Internet Cafe to pick up a loaner laptop, it was almost 8pm so we just went to the Garden Cafe for a quick bite. We were pleased with the 2.0 changes we saw there. The lighting was dimmed, tablecloths and cutlery were on the tables, and the staff was busing tables regularly. I took advantage of the pasta action station and the Caesar salad action station, while my wife tried the carving station. And the food was very good. We'll have no issues with going to the Garden Cafe for dinner again. We attended the Welcome Aboard show at 9:00 in the Stardust Lounge. It was a sampler show where all of the entertainers came onstage and performed one song each. Each act was very good. We also got to meet the cruise director, Denny. Day 2 - At Sea In the morning, we enjoyed another 2.0 feature. Il Adagio is now open for breakfast and lunch for VIP guests, with no cover charge. They have a superb menu service and a breakfast buffet to choose from. Erika is there to check on you and make sure you have everything you need. We'll definitely be going here for breakfast on sea days (and we have 10 of them). We then spent some time touring the ship and getting used to the layout. The highlight of our day was the CC Meet and Greet which NCL scheduled at 4:00 in Las Ramblas. I'm thrilled to say that of the 33 people in our roll call, only one failed to show up. We had custom t-shirts made for everyone. And we had a great turnout of NCL management too. Captain Von Knorring was there as well as Denny the CD, Rochelle the Group Services coordinator, Sean the Hotel Services manager, Andrea the Food and Beverage manager and the bar manager too. The roll callers were impressed and appreciate their showing up. Thanks also to Rochelle for the catering. The captain expanded on the bow thruster problem and reassured us that they were fine now and that we had made up the lost time. We were told that there were a few 2.0 features still to be implemented because the equipment hasn't been delivered yet, such as the chocolate fountain or the new mattresses that are being custom built in Italy and will come with memory foam. They should be delivered by June. And Denny told us that the crew all pay attention to Cruise Critic, so they know what the pet peeves are, and they take the compliments to heart and the criticisms with a grain of salt. Tonight was the first 'Dress Up or Not' night, which meant photogs in the lobbies and lobster in the dining rooms. We went to the first showing of 'Hey Mr. Producer' instead. We got to sit in the VIP section close to the stage, another penthouse perk. The Jean Ann Ryan Company is still on board and they didn't disappoint. I enjoyed the show even though I'm not a Broadway show tunes kind of guy. Then we went to Pacific Heights for a late dinner because we wanted something light before bed. I had a great clam chowder appetizer and perch entrEe, and the menu said it was only 505 calories total. This restaurant is super for those looking to still fit into their clothes on day 19 of the cruise. We tried our luck in the casino, but the luck was bad on this night. And it's not the casino's fault if it's a little smoky. I could feel the cool air circulating but it gets overpowered by the smoking gamblers. So don't complain about NCL if your shirt smells afterward, ask the guy beside you to butt out instead. Day 3 - Roatan, Honduras In Roatan we took a Victor Bodden Best of Roatan tour that was very enjoyable. Our guide Juan Carlos was surprised to find out that this was the last time the Sun would be calling on Roatan this season. Back on the ship, at 5:45 Erika stopped by our cabin to check on us. Since we had no dinner plans, she called to see if Teppanyaki was available for 6:30. She came back and told us that not only is it available but it would be a private dinner because we were the only ones to reserve! She's never seen a cruise like this one. Not many people are making reservations. Maybe because of the length of the cruise, people don't feel rushed to go to the specialty restaurants right away. There will probably be less space available near the end as people realize the cruise is almost over and they haven't done this or that yet. So we'll take advantage of it now. Turns out we weren't alone for dinner anyway. 3 other couples showed up last minute and we welcomed the company. The more the merrier. We had a great dinner too. Day 4 - At Sea Back to Il Adagio for breakfast. The food is too good. We're going to have to start watching what we eat, so after digesting a little, we went to the gym. It was very busy, no treadmills were available, so we went to the promenade deck and did 7 laps (2 miles) instead. There were a couple of things in the Freestyle Daily that I wanted to comment on. The first is another 2.0 feature, the enhanced educational and lifestyle program called NCL U. There are 3 classes at various times today, a South American destination lecture, a lecture on how to make your own Travel Diary using a computer, and a Salsa dance class. The classes seem to be only on sea days. The second item is a Spa special, a 50 min Hot Stone massage for only $109. That's a great price for a cruise ship massage on a sea day. I signed up for one at 2pm. We spent the rest of the morning on the pool deck, and 2.0 has been implemented there too. The deck chairs have drink flags that get quick responses when raised. Staff still wander the decks calling out for drink requests but it appears subtle and less obtrusive, and they carry the spritz bottles if you want a shot of water to cool you down. It's also quieter by the pool. Denny the CD had told us that the pool deck is now a quiet zone. The canned music isn't too loud, and when the live band is onstage, their volume has been turned down too. We've met various people from our roll call around the ship since our meet and greet. I'm really glad we joined these boards as it has only enhanced our vacation by having so many new friends onboard with us. This evening we had a couple of events to attend. Our Latitudes member party was at 5pm in the Stardust lounge. Actually it was the second of 2 parties. There are over 800 members on board so they had to split it up to accommodate them all. The second event was the Captains VIP party at 7pm in the East Indies room. At both parties you meet the Captain and the department heads and have free drinks and canapEs. Now if only I can finagle an invite to the Captains Table for dinner. Afterward we went to Seven Seas for dinner. We had a fine meal and the service was prompt and friendly. One thing to note about the dining room is that the 'Always Available' items (like Caesar Salad, Salmon, Steak, and Chicken Breast) are now actually on the menu. No more guessing about what you can have. Day 5 - Puerto Limon, Costa Rica Today we did the NCL Mangrove Kayaking tour. There is not much to do at the port itself, you had to take some type of tour to really enjoy this stop. We were bussed to a resort with 4 other couples and had an enjoyable day paddling up and down an estuary while guides pointed out the flora and fauna. We saw howler monkeys, 3-toed sloths, blue iguanas, bats, herons, egrets and other birds. And we had a little excitement when a small fish jumped into the kayak of another couple startling the wife so much she almost tipped over. Back on the ship at 1:30 we went to the Garden Cafe for lunch but couldn't get anywhere near the food. The lines were huge, so we went across to Pacific Heights for some pizza and pasta. Again the lines were long. Does everyone eat at 1:30? So we went to Il Adagio for the suite lunch. Never any crowds there. Trying to watch the waistline, we skipped the entrEe and had just the appetizer and dessert. Here's a tip regarding lunch. On port days, only the Garden Cafe, Pacific Heights and Seven Seas are open to all. But on sea days, a 2.0 feature has 'one or two' alternative restaurants open for lunch in addition to those three. You have to check the Daily to see what the alternatives are. Yesterday it was a poolside BBQ. Tomorrow Le Bistro is open for brunch from 11:00 to 1:00. Tonight we had dinner with a couple from our M&G in Four Seasons. Great menu tonight. Everyone except me had prime rib which I'm told was very tender. I went with the Cooking Light Tilapia which was also good, and used up the saved calories by getting 2 desserts, a coconut cream pie and a blackberry cheesecake. Yum. We went to see the Comedy Magic of Rich Purpura tonight. Pretty funny, kind of like Don Rickles doing card tricks. When we got back to our room, there was a snake on our bed. Don't worry, it was the kind with chocolate mint eyes. Day 6 - At Sea We've already had to put our clocks back an hour twice on this cruise. Now we're heading east to Columbia and have to put our clocks forward an hour. I'm OK as long as I don't miss my 10:30 spa appointment. They have some really good packages there. I signed up for a relaxation package that includes 1 Hot Stone, 1 Seaweed and 1 Deep Tissue massage that saves $125 on the cost if I had booked them all separately. I'm doing the Seaweed aromatherapy massage today, the others later in the cruise. In todays Daily they have an Oxydermy Facial special for $109 ($60 off). My DW is doing that at the same time. We got our laundry bag today. Fill the bag for $15. It's too early yet, we brought enough clothes. They ended up offering it 3 times during the cruise but we never needed to use it. I have a few items to mention about menus: 1) The room service breakfast menu that you leave on your doorknob is different for the regular cabins than for the suites. The regular menu is a continental breakfast (pastries, cold cereals, yogurt, fruit, juice and coffee or tea). The suite menu is all that plus egg and meat choices. 2) So far, only Il Adagio has an item identified as their Signature dish on their menu, which is Lobster Ravioli. The specialty restaurants are supposed to have one. This is another 2.0 feature that hasn't been fully implemented yet. 3) It was reported on other threads that the specialty restaurant cover charges were increased on April 12. I'm pleased to report that is not entirely true. Only Teppanyaki had its cover charge raised. Here are the cover charges as seen on the menus today: Il Adagio - $10, Le Bistro - $15, Ginza - $15, East Meets West - $20, Teppanyaki - $25. For dinner tonight, we went to Pacific Heights at 7:30 but couldn't get in. There was no space until 8:30 so we went upstairs to East Meets West. No problem getting in without a reservation, only 6 tables were occupied. As we walked by Teppanyaki, only 2 people were enjoying the 6:30 seating there, and only a few tables were occupied in Ginza too. I guess a lot of people on this cruise are averse to paying cover charges. That's fine with us because the service is great when the restaurants aren't busy. And they don't know what they're missing either. The filet mignon I had tonight was one of the best I've ever had. It just melted in my mouth. When we left, Teppanyaki was empty. Nobody was there for the 8pm seating! Don't expect that on the Alaska cruises, but you people taking the South America repo cruise in the fall can look forward to it. I'm sorry but I have to climb up on my soapbox and preach a little. I really don't know how people on these boards can complain about the food or the service on the Sun. Honestly, I just don't get it. We've been onboard for 6 days now, tried 7 of the 10 restaurants, and haven't had one bad experience yet. If it happens I'll let you know, but maybe the 2.0 investments are paying off. Or maybe some people are just pickier than us. I do know the Sun crew is very proud of having the highest satisfaction rating in the fleet, and it shows. I guess I'm risking being called 'an NCL lover' which I'm not. I'm a cruise lover. This is only my second NCL cruise and there were a few bad moments on the PofAm last year, but I gave them another chance and I'm happy I did. Day 7 - Cartagena, Columbia We had tried to book an NCL tour of Old Cartagena the day before but couldn't get in. It had a waiting list. So we just left the ship and hired a taxi to take us to the old city as well as some shopping. Well, the coordinator of the taxis must have told the driver only about the shopping. He never did take us to the old city and didn't speak any English so we couldn't tell him where we wanted to go. So it was a short day and in retrospect maybe not a bad thing because we heard from others that the old city was very crowded today. The HAL Westerdam was tied up beside us and it's a bigger boat than the Sun. There were literally dozens of tour buses all taking people to the old city, so I think I'm glad we missed that scene after all. Speaking of Columbia, one thing I forgot to mention for you jewelry lovers is that last Monday was the grand opening of the new Columbian Emeralds store on the Sun. They have sales everyday in the Daily. So far I've managed to keep the DW distracted whenever we pass it on deck 7, but there are still 12 days to go and I don't know how much longer that's going to work. Anyway, we were back sooner than expected so things onboard were quiet. We had the gym almost to ourselves and there were no lines in the Garden Cafe for lunch. Today they had a chilled raspberry soup to die for, and they also had fresh blackberries in the fruit station so I dropped some of those in my soup too. Oh man, I could eat that every day and not get tired of it. I've mentioned our concierge Erika a few times previously. She is going a great job for us. She checks in every day to see if there's anything we need, any reservations that we need made, asks us how our day was. She's so much more attentive that the concierge we had on PofAm last year. Where Erika is the proactive type, Roland our butler is more the reactive type. That's not a slam against Roland, he's courteous, friendly and professional, and when we want something he's at our door with it within 15 minutes. What more can you ask for? It's just the two types of service come with their own styles. So when Erika called today, we had learned our lesson from last night and made an 8pm reservation at Pacific Heights thru her. The service was fantastic tonight. Pacific Heights has been busy on this cruise so they've brought extra staff over from the specialty restaurants to help out. Our waiter was Candido from the Philippines. In conversation with him we had mentioned bring married 25 years, so at the end of our meal he comes over and says he has a present for our silver anniversary (which was last August). He unfolds a paper napkin and starts to form a rose out of the napkin while serenading us to 'Only You'. By the end of the song he hands the paper rose to me to give to my DW and the whole restaurant has stopped to applaud him. So if you're on the Sun in the future, go to Pacific Heights for a fine light meal, and hope Candido is still there. Day 8 - Panama Canal Our day started bright and early for 2 reasons. The first was the Panama Canal souvenir sale started on the pool deck at 6:30am. This was our first chance to buy shirts, hats, books and other trinkets commemorating our transiting the canal. Judging from the crowds, it was a very successful day for the NCL gift shop. The second reason was the ship had reached the canal entrance by 8am. And when we got there, the HAL Westerdam was already entering the first lock. It looks like we're doing this transit together. This was our first time here so I'm not an expert, but for those of you who have never done the Panama Canal I'll try to explain what happens from what we've been told. If you have done it before, fell free to skip ahead. Before we enter the locks, 3 pilots come onboard along with a commentator. The commentator (as the name suggests) provides a commentary for the passengers over the PA system. The first set of locks is the Gatun Locks. These locks will raise the ship 26 meters to the level of Gatun Lake. There are 3 chambers to pass through, and there are 2 channels for ships to pass side by side. All traffic today appeared to be traveling from the Caribbean to the Pacific. As the ship approaches the first lock, the ship is tied to the mules, 3 on each side. The mules are small locomotives that run on tracks beside the locks, and they help keep the ship aligned in the center of the lock. The mules don't pull the ship through, the pilot controlling the engines does that. The ship enters the lower lock and the gates close behind us. Valves are opened and using gravity, the water from the lock above us is emptied into our lock, causing the ship to rise. When the water level in the two locks is the same, the forward gates are opened and the ship enters the second lock. This procedure is continued until we clear the third lock and sail into the lake. There were a lot of cargo ships anchored outside the Caribbean entrance to the canal as well as in Gatun Lake, all waiting their turn. The cruise ships are given priority because those companies pay a premium to have a quick transit. Can you imagine the nasty postings on this board if 1900 passengers had to wait around for a few days to pass through? Passing through Gatun Lake and the Gaillard Cut takes about 4 hours. Just after passing under the Centennial Bridge and crossing the Continental Divide, you reach the Pedro Miguel Locks, where you start the process of being lowered to the Pacific. There is only one lock to transit here, then you travel another mile across Miraflores Lake to the Miraflores Locks, which has 2 chambers. The process I described above is repeated except the water in our chamber is emptied into the lock ahead to lower us instead. After you clear the last lock, you sail under the Bridge of the Americas which links North America to South America, and enter the Pacific Ocean. I mentioned before that we have an aft penthouse cabin which allowed us great views of the locks after we had entered the chambers. We've become friends with another CC couple who have a forward penthouse overlooking the bow. So the four of us, along with two more couples we met at our M&G, spent most of the transit on either their balcony or ours. Although I love our cabin, I have to admit that the forward cabin had much better viewing of the canal and was also out of the sun, so thanks to our new friends for letting us visit. Regarding the Westerdam, we kept pace with her for the entire transit. It was interesting to watch her be raised and lowered while we were beside her. Sometimes she towered over us, and sometimes we dwarfed them. It's funny that the Sun passengers got a lot of pictures of the Westerdam and vice versa. People were shouting across to us "What's your email address? I'll send you my pictures!" By the time we left Panama, it was 6pm. It was a very enjoyable day, and one we'll remember forever. We had been partying all day and by now we were full and exhausted so we skipped dinner and went to bed early. Day 9 - At Sea Three days until we reach Acapulco. What do you do when you're faced with three sea days in a row? Well, if you find yourself bored in that situation, you can't blame the Sun for it. There are all kinds of things to do during sea days. A look at the Daily shows the following: - Texas Hold'em, Blackjack and Slots tournaments in the casino - NCL U classes on Bridge, Digital Photography, and Rumba dancing - Yoga, Pilates, and Spinning classes in the gym - Hypnosis seminar to stop smoking in Dazzles (I forgot to mention that Nadeen, the Queen of Hypnosis performed last night in the Stardust Lounge) - 6 different specials in the spa So with all these options, what did we do today? Nothing. The last two days were busy and we wanted some quiet time to recharge, so we awoke late, had breakfast at Il Adagio, went back to our cabin and put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door. We emerged from our cocoon at 7:30 to have our anniversary dinner at Le Bistro. We had pre-ordered the Anniversary package because we thought it was a great deal, even though our anniversary isn't until August. The package includes dinner and wine at Le Bistro with no cover charge. Dinner was once again very good, although I admit that my DW had the better of it. Her beef tenderloin entree and chocolate napoleon dessert were excellent. What they don't advertise is that the package also includes a small anniversary cake that you can have there or take back to your cabin. Oh yeah, almost forgot the big news. We have been invited to dine with the Captain tomorrow night. Day 10 - At Sea After reading the Daily, I started calling today Champagne Tuesday, because there was a lot of bubbly flowing around the ship this afternoon. There was the Champagne Art Auction in Dazzles, the Future Cruise Champagne presentation in the Stardust Lounge, and the Champagne Spa Bazaar in the spa. Unfortunately they were all scheduled around the same time so you had to choose which party to go to. We chose the art auction. It wasn't our first auction at sea but it was the first time we actually bid on something. I won't say how much we spent, but we're happy with what we got. Then there was another Captains VIP party that evening, so more champagne was to be had. These VIP parties aren't just for suite guests, gold and higher Latitudes members are invited as well. It was 'Dress Up or Not' night and we chose to dress up because as I mentioned before, we were invited to have dinner with the Captain. There were 8 guests in all plus the Captain, the Staff Captain Roger, the Hotel Director Sean, and the Chief Engineer Marijan. As you can imagine, the service was spectacular, and the menu was prepared by the executive chef specifically for the Captain's table. I had Roger to my right and my DW had Sean to her left. Roger is a fully qualified ship's Master, and is second in command on the Sun. One of the most interesting topics of conversation at the table was the Pride of Aloha which is formerly the Sky, sister ship of the Sun. When the Sun gets to Vancouver, both Roger and Sean are leaving to go to the Pride of Aloha, which is finishing its Hawaii tours this week. Then it will be repositioned to Miami, renamed back to the Norwegian Sky, and will start doing 3 and 4 day Bahamas cruises. Day 11 - At Sea This was a quiet day on board. I guess with all the champagne from yesterday, everybody is sleeping it off. But we still managed to find lots of stuff to do. I had to go make arrangements for my art purchases, had a deep tissue massage, we lost some more money in the casino, we had dinner with another CC couple, we went to see the comedian in the lounge. A typical fun day at sea. A few people have mentioned my using the expensive internet time to post this review. Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of the internet available onboard. 1) Either bring your own laptop or get a loaner onboard. If you purchase one of their internet packages, NCL will give you a loaner laptop free of charge. I did this rather than haul mine around. It has a wireless card in it, so I can go to any hotspot on board and get online (only a small number of cabins are wired with Ethernet on the Sun, and mine isn't one of them). I write these reviews beforehand on the laptop in Word, and then logon to the internet, go straight to this thread via My Favorites and copy and paste the review into a new post. It only takes a few minutes. 2) Purchase your internet package on embarkation night and you'll get a bonus of 20 minutes for the 250 minute package, or 10 minutes for the 100 minute package. If you are a Latitudes member, make sure the Internet manager knows that and he'll give you another 30 minutes for the 250 package, and 15 minutes for the 100 package. I purchased the 250 minute package, but I actually got 300 minutes to use. 3) Watch for specials in the Daily. For instance, tomorrow there is a Happy Hour from 5pm to 7pm, where you get half your time back if you go online during that time. Day 12 - Acapulco, Mexico Coming into Acapulco Bay in the pre-dawn light was a beautiful site to see. We had never been here before and had read good and bad things on the ports boards so we didn't know what to expect. We took an NCL tour to see the ancient petroglyphs at Palma Sola, which was 1000 feet above sea level, overlooking Acapulco Bay. It was a physical tour that involved a lot of steep stair climbing, but it was very interesting and we really needed the exercise. We got some super photographs too. Then they took us back down to the beach for a Mexican lunch. We chose to walk back to the ship after lunch, it wasn't far. It gave us a chance to meet all of the street vendors, beggars and taxi drivers along the way. We went across the street to tour Fort San Diego as well, and a visit to Acapulco wouldn't be complete without the DW stopping in the duty free stores to buy some authentic Mexican silver jewelry. Day 13 - Manzanillo, Mexico The Sun docked in the cargo port which was about 3 miles to downtown Manzanillo, and the same distance to the beaches in the other direction. We didn't get into any of the beach resort tours that we wanted and we didn't score any last minute openings on the waiting lists, so we decided to just take the shuttle bus into town. It was only $4 roundtrip and they ran every 10 minutes. We felt more comfortable in this port because it was a lot smaller than Acapulco. There were very few street vendors or beggars, and there were good bargains to be found in some of the stores. Once again, we're glad we didn't get into the beach resort tours we wanted. We heard from CC members that they were not as advertised. They were supposed to be provided with resort access and beach chairs, but when they got there all of the chairs were taken and the resorts were overcrowded. It seems no one at NCL knew that this weekend was a Mexican holiday and that all the locals would beat them to the beach. We made it back to the ship in time to have lunch at Il Adagio, then we went to the cabin and watched a movie. The movie choices on TV aren't bad. So far on this cruise, we've seen Juno, Michael Clayton, and I Am Legend. Because we had a late lunch and we had some suite snacks delivered, we didn't feel the need to come out for dinner. Suite Snacks are another unadvertised perk of having a suite. Your butler gives you a card to fill out each day. It lists a number of snacks that you can have delivered the next day at either 5pm or 10pm. You can choose a different snack each day or have the same snack every day. The choices on the Sun include chocolate covered strawberries, brownies, soft pretzels, tortillas and salsa, potato chips, cheese and crackers, veggies and dip, and dried fruits and nuts. In addition to that, we also have the endless bowl of fruit that everyone in a balcony or higher gets. It's not exactly endless, but it does get replenished periodically. If it runs out early, you just ask your butler or steward to get you some more. Day 14 - At Sea We woke up this morning to a chilly surprise. The temperature only made it to 66 F/19 C. We know we're heading north but we're still west of Cabo San Lucas. We expected it to stay warm for at least a few more days. And yet there were still some diehards sunbathing by the pool. I don't think they were taking advantage of the cold towels and spritz service though, unless they filled the bottles with hot water instead. There's not much else to mention today. I had a Hot Stone massage to finish up my relaxation package (appropriate given the weather), we watched another afternoon matinee in our cabin (Pirates of the Caribbean 3), and had dinner with some CC couples at Le Bistro. All week the ship has been offering half off the surcharge from 5:30 to 6:30 in Il Adagio and Le Bistro to encourage people to use the specialty restaurants. It seems to be working, but service tonight was definitely slower because of it. The food was still great though, all 6 people enjoyed everything. Day 15 - At Sea It was even colder today, but we're told it's supposed to warm up by Tuesday. Now we know what an Alaskan cruise may feel like. I went to the Art Seminar today, where the art director told us about the various styles and artists. I think this seminar should be conducted earlier in the cruise, they've already had 4 auctions. They might have sold more art if they told people what to look for beforehand. Today we had tapas and sangria in Las Ramblas. Watch out for the Spanish sausage, it will burn your lips. Make sure you already have your sangria first. Day 16 - At Sea We didn't think it could keep getting colder but it is. The temperature started today at 52F/11C, and we're just across from Los Angeles. They have drained the pools because not even the Canadians are silly enough to go swimming in this weather. And before I get some angry posts in return for that joke, we're proud Canadians too. Of the 1900 passengers on the ship, over 1200 are Canadian. This was a little tidbit that Denny told us way back at the Welcome Aboard show. I would bet that 80 percent of that number is from British Columbia too. We attended another Future Cruises presentation today and we put down our $250 Cruise Rewards deposit. We don't know what cruise we want to take yet. We're thinking of trying either the Mediterranean or the Baltic Sea next. A couple of CC members have already booked a South American cruise next February on the Sun, from Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina. My wife wanted to get our whole CC group together again before the end of the cruise so after checking the Daily to see where the 4pm Happy Hour was, we contacted everybody in the roll call and arranged to meet in the Observation Lounge at 3:45. I'm glad to say almost everyone showed up again. It was great to check in with them and see how their cruise was going. We heard a lot of positive comments, and although there was one or two bad stories passed around, in general everyone was having a great time. And to top it off, while we were all gathered we saw a giant pod of dolphins crossing the ship's path from starboard to port. There had to be at least 100 dolphins putting on a show for us. Day 17 - San Francisco, CA The day started cold and very overcast. It must have rained overnight because we had a lot of soot on our balcony. When we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge, we couldn't see the top of the towers in the fog. But by the time we cleared through U.S. Customs around 9am, the sun was shining and the temperature was in the sixties. Before we left the cabin, we left a note asking the stewards to clean the balcony, which they did. We took an NCL tour to Alcatraz and Sausalito. The prison tour was very interesting. We also stopped in at Pier 39 so the DW could pick up some Ghirardelli chocolates. San Francisco is a beautiful city. We'll have to come back again for a longer stay sometime. But it was a long day so after we left, we had a nap and then a late dinner in Four Seasons. We both had the carved turkey which was great. Once again, the dining rooms are pretty empty at 8:30 so the service is great at that time. Day 18 - At Sea 'The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed...' No, we're not headed for Gilligan's Island, but that aptly describes the seas today. It's a day to use the handrails and stay inside. It's only 48F/9C. But it's also a very interesting day. We had the crew show followed by the Fountains show this afternoon. It was very entertaining. The JAR Company is doing 'Cirque Pan' tonight. I hope the seas calm down for them later. It's the last Dress Up night too, and finally the Chocoholic Buffet is at 10:30. Day 19 - Victoria, BC Getting off the ship was a little slow this morning. As I mentioned earlier, a number of guests were leaving early because they're closer to home in Victoria, but it did clog up the lines going through Canadian customs. The cruise ship port is about half a mile from downtown, but there are shuttle buses to take you there. We chose to walk to burn off some calories. Victoria is especially beautiful in May. The flowers and trees are all blooming and the temperature was in the sixties. We just did a self-guided walking tour thru town and around the harbour to West Victoria, then took a little harbour shuttle boat back to Fishermans wharf. By the time we got back to the ship, we'd been on our feet for 5 hours and walked at least 7 miles. As we were boarding, there were spa staff handing out flyers for a 20-20-20 message special. For only $89, they will do 20 minutes on your neck and shoulders, 20 minutes on your hands and arms, and 20 minutes on your feet and ankles. I went straight there because my feet were killing me. For dinner, we went to Four Seasons with some other CC couples and sadly traded emails and phone numbers and said our goodbyes. And of course the last night of any cruise is Tip night so we thanked our concierge Erika, butler Roland and cabin stewards Carlos and Jay. I know that NCL charges you $10 pp per day (and on a 19 day cruise that adds up), but Erika and Roland aren't included in that, and Carlos and Jay deserved a little more too. Day 20 - Vancouver, BC Disembarkation went smoothly. NCL provides suite guests with VIP disembarkation which allows us off first, but since we were spending a few days in Vancouver in the Pan Pacific hotel right beside the pier, we weren't in any hurry so we didn't leave until 9am. Over the course of this cruise, we both gained 6 pounds each, which isn't bad. I had dieted and lost 7 pounds in the month preceding so I still came out one pound ahead. Keeping active on the ship and doing shore excursions that involved some exercise helped. I have to say that we didn't have one bad meal during the whole cruise, so I don't know what to make of people that come back and complain about the food. I guess it's just a matter of taste. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
We booked this trip nearly 16 months in advance to insure that my wife and I and three other couples had our choice of staterooms and deck preference well in advance. We all prefer balcony staterooms in as close to the mid ships as ... Read More
We booked this trip nearly 16 months in advance to insure that my wife and I and three other couples had our choice of staterooms and deck preference well in advance. We all prefer balcony staterooms in as close to the mid ships as possible for the best cruising without feeling significant movement of the ship during rough seas. Our group ranges in age from 56-64 and we are definitely not cruise and booze people, but we do have a real good time when we are out and about. Our primary purpose was to transit the Panama Canal and see the cliff divers in Acapulco, not to mention have a great vacation. The 17 day cruise started April 23, 2006 and was completed May 10, 2006. Embarkation In a word "awful" because the Norwegian Sun was supposed to go out of New Orleans, the accommodations in Miami were make shift at best. There were (5) other ships there on our sailing day and they were embarking on their cruises as well, so they had the good accommodations. When we arrived at the dock we were given tags for the luggage by the porter and the only thing we needed to put on the tag was our cabin number. We were then herded into a serpentine line by an NCL employee and we could see the line would eventually take us into a good sized tent. What we didn't know was that once in the tent there were two Miami Harbor Patrol people in there checking cruise documents against passports or other ID. We stood in the hot sun for over an hour before getting into the air conditioned FIRST tent. This had to be especially hard on the majority of the older passengers all above 70 years old by our guess. NCL employees came out often to give us cups of water. Once inside we were checked by one of the two patrol people that I really believed wanted to be a comedian as he made some sort of joke or comment about each person he checked. If he would have been in the blazing Florida sun like us I'm sure he would have hurried. This situation was out of NCL's hands and the Miami authorities had complete control of the check in station. After the first tent there was a walk half the length of the ship where a "comfort tent" to keep you out of the sun for a few minutes had been erected. We then proceeded half the length of the ship to another "comfort tent" to stand waiting to enter a large tent where the medal detector was checking carry on luggage and people as they walked through. We then were sent to the registration area in the tent where U.S. citizens and non citizen lines were set up for registration. The non citizen line was at least twice as long as the US citizen line and getting through registration and the metal detector took no more than 15 minutes. We found out later that there were less than a thousand U.S. passengers on board and over fifteen hundred International passengers. With our cabin keys in hand we proceeded on the ship through the check in and hand cleaning stations. We took an elevator to the Viking Deck #8 and proceeded to our cabin. Unfortunately, the door keys didn't work. We put our carry on luggage in one of our groups cabins and proceed to the Garden Cafe on deck #12. Had a real nice lunch there with the food being very tasty and a real nice selection. After lunch, I went down to the reception area on deck #5 and received new keys which worked just fine. Shortly after getting in the cabin we met our cabin steward Donnie and asked for one additional pillow and a foam mattress pat. We had read about the pads in a previous review. Donnie had no problem accommodating our request that evening when he made up our room. We did have a problem initially with the air conditioning in our room and one request to Donnie for help and the problem was solved by maintenance. Don't get me wrong, the AC won't freeze you out of the room, but was comfortable for sleeping. Other than that problem the room was excellent with plenty of storage and even through rough seas due to its mid ship location on deck #8 we felt very little rocking or rolling of the ship. At Sea Days There were many activities to occupy your time while at sea including all the traditional cruise ship venues. We chose to go to the pools early usually around 8:00 a.m. and there usually was no one there. We noticed the pool area filled up around 11:00 which was in the full heat of the day and way too hot for us. There were ample pool lounge chairs and small round tables for various items. The pools were at 77 degrees and the 4 jacuzzi's were at 100 degrees. Port of Call Willemstad, Curacao We took a "Beach Express Tour" snorkeling excursion. It was the first time most of us snorkeled and after getting several goggle and mouth fulls of salt water we all got the hang of it. It was a short ride to the beach area and our guide and driver were a lot of fun in their old school bus. The island itself was formed by volcanic eruptions and the areas in the sea are full of coral which i found when I lost my balance and skinned my knee on some. It was nice to be able to stand up on the bottom when you got tired as well as clean out your mask and tube (LOL). The tour and beach fun were very much worth the $78/couple cost of the excursion. Port of Call Oranjestad, Aruba The excursion we chose in Aruba was a glass windowed boat exploring a ship wreck from World War II off the coast and then a tour of the island including the Natural Bridge in their wildlife refuge was similar to a state park in the U.S. This tour was in an air conditioned bus and again very much worth the $114/couple cost. Our first phase was the glass windowed boat. We boarded a power boat at the Holiday Inn and went out into the sea and transfer to the glass windowed boat. Even though the boat was air condition, the climb down stairs to the bottom of the boat and the close proximity of the passengers might make you feel a little sea sick. You are actually only 5' underwater, but the 20% magnification of the window glass makes everything closer. We were fortunate that the sun was coming out of the clouds during our tour giving us some incredible pictures and film of the wreck. The next stop was a big rock some chose to climb, but we elected to walk through the gift shop and then get back on the bus in the air conditioning the outside temperature was about 90 with 98% humidity and I mean to tell you it was HOT!. We then went to the natural bridge which we found out on the way had collapsed in September 2005. The smaller bridge was still there, however, so that worked out ok. The coast line in the northern end of the island is very rugged in comparison to the white sandy beaches of the touristy town area. Port of Call Port Lemon, Costa Rica This city was one of the most poverty stricken cities I've seen in my travels abroad and absolutely filthy with garbage and trash strewn everywhere. We chose a pontoon trip on the Black River to view wildlife. Again, we were on a nice air conditioned bus that took us through the heart of this poverty stricken city and country. The tour was for 4 hours of which two and half of it was driving to and from the river. The trip appeared to be no more than about 20 miles, but because the road was so full of potholes we crawled most of the way. If the road would have been in good repair it might have taken no more than forty minutes each way. The pontoon boat had a leaking pontoon on the port side and on the way back under power it began plowing through the water getting the people on that side of the boat wet feet and some even got some of their belongings wet. It felt pretty good while we were moving, but when he stopped to look at animals it was really hot. On the trip we saw sloth's, monkeys, and several species of birds. The wildlife and the fresh fruit after the pontoon ride were nice, but at $138/couple in the heat and humidity we wouldn't recommend it. Transiting the Panama Canal Transiting the canal and six locks is by far the highlight of the trip. To be on this huge ship with only 24 inches to spare on each side from hitting the sides of the lock is unbelievable. The co-ordination of the six toy locomotives that pull the ship into each lock and then steady the ship in the lock while the water is either raising or lowering is something you must witness to truly appreciate. There are a total of six locks in the Panama Canal with the first three at the Atlantic side. The fourth lock is about the three quarter point of the journey and the last two are at the Pacific end of the canal. It takes the whole day to make the transit. There are many places within the canal that two huge ships like ours I doubt could even pass. The co-ordination of the passing is all done at the locks and is timed flawlessly. We saw two crocodiles during the transit and number of species of birds. We heard holler monkeys, but they were to far away for us to see. Another thing that gives one an appreciation for the engineering of the canal and locks is the control buildings at each lock base. The last one at the Pacific side was so close to the ship that we could just about touch it. It couldn't have been more than six feet from our balcony. Initially, we intended to get to the front of the ship on the observation deck to watch the transit, but they were standing six deep there. We went to the back of the ship on deck #11 where we were able to get refreshments and food at the Out door Cafe and really see first hand how the locks and the entire system operated. Port of Call Puntarenas, Costa Rica When we left Port Lemon we were told by our guide that on the Pacific side of Costa Rica was the well to do side and seeing shacks and cardboard houses was only on the Atlantic side. WRONG! The area looked identical to Port Lemon with garbage and trash everywhere, burned out houses and empty lots covered in trash. The beach area was absolutely pitiful with garbage, trash and even an old toilet seat laying on the beach. The one and half hour bus trip into the mountains had trash all the way along the roadway which we informed by our guide is one of the principal roadways in his country. The road was a two lane truck route that was in poor repair and in our view very dangerous to pass on. They got us on this excursion, it was no more than a long bus ride to buy souvenirs that were probably the same as we saw around the dock area. We were taken to a "tourist trap". The high light of the trap I mean trip was the fresh fruit and cookies provided at the Sargi cart makers shop. Cost of this excursion was $80/couple and again is not recommended. Huatulco, Mexico City and La Guelaguetza Show Excursion We boarded our air conditioned bus for a ride around this small town in southern Mexico. The temperature was over 90 and humidity was about 96% the day of our tour. In other words it was really hot. The trip around this small city included a stop at their very old Catholic Church where three cute little Mexican kids sold us some hand made jewelry and the girls each bought a fold up fan to help with the heat. The last part of the tour was at an outdoor theater where it had to be over 100 degrees in side with very little air movement causing most people to leave the very long dancing performance soaking wet. We did receive refreshments there and on a scale of 1 to 10 we might rate it a 5. Cost of the tour was $116/couple. Acapulco The highlight of Acapulco was of course the cliff divers. We took a bus tour around the city and stopped at several places, but the cliff divers are what Acapulco is all about. There is a hotel just adjacent to the cliff where the divers perform and that is the base used by all the tours., There is an excellent view from there, but your are a good 250' away from where they actually dive. My wife talked me into going down the 146 stairs to an observation area right across from the divers probably no more than 60' from the actual cliff. The walk down in the 96 degree heat wasn't to bad, but the walk up wasn't easy. All in all this was by far the best place to watch them dive. The observation area was about 20' up from the water and for taking pictures especially movies it was perfect. I even got a picture with my wife and two of the divers because this area is where they walk down to and then after the dive they come back up those same 146 stairs. Oh by the way, I made it up too soaking wet with perspiration. Cabo San Lucas We took a bus tour to a small town named Todos Santos about 50 miles up the Baha to have an authentic Mexican lunch and tour the city. One of the main attractions is The Hotel California made popular from a song by The Eagles. We also toured Cabo San Lucas mostly from the bus and can see that it is one of the up and coming tourist areas of Mexico. Entertainment Entertainment was very diverse in the Stardust lounge located on decks 6 & 7 aft. There was excellent entertainment from singers, magicians, comedians, jugglers and even a hypnotist that hypnotized my sister-in-law. We always went to the early show so that we could have dinner in the Seven Seas restaurant on deck 5 aft. Obviously, the proximity of the restaurant and lounge made it very convenient. The highlight for us of the entertainment provided was the three productions by the Jean Ann Ryan singers and dancers. These young people that have been brought together are from all over the world and were absolutely outstanding and provided great entertainment. They did two totally different show during the cruise and are a can't miss. There were many other entertainment opportunities, but we chose to basically relax and not partake in them. However, a lot of the passengers did and appeared to be having a great time. Staff Services NCL of course is free style dining which we prefer ever since our first cruise on Princess. There is no restriction on when or where you eat except with in the confines of the regular dining hours. During lunch on our third day in the Seven Seas we had a young lady from Romania, Mihaela, and her assistant from the Philippines, Anicia, wait on us. These two girls had three tables they were working with twelve people and they were absolutely excellent. They never left us waiting for anything from keeping our glasses full to cleaning crumbs off the table. At dinner that evening I asked the Maitre'd if we could be seated in their section. The maitre'd gave me a kind of questioning look, but asked us to wait a few minutes to be seated. The wait was no more than two minutes and we were led to a table for eight, our party size, which was not in the area we had eaten lunch in. I pointed this out to the maitre'd and was told it would be all right. Within a few minutes Mihaela and Anicia came to the table and got us started with drinks and appetizers and through out the evening showed us the same great service that they had done at lunch. Well, the next night I again asked for Mihaela and Anicia and again we were led to the same table and within a few minutes both girls were there to wait on us. This was our regular routine at dinner for the remaining 12 days on the cruise. As it turned out, even on the first night when I asked for them they were not even working in that dinning room, but were in the cafe on the eleventh deck working. The staff at the Seven Seas brought them down to wait on us and us only every evening what ever time we arrived. I don't think you can get any better service from NCL than that. Thus, free style dining can also be assigned seating if you play your cards right. We rewarded both girls well at the end of the cruise. Food First, we are not connoisseurs of gourmet food. But if you see us, you know we like to eat. We ate all of our evening meals in the Seven Seas and about half of our breakfasts and lunches. We ate in the buffet only on shore days and ate in the outdoor cafe when the taste was for hamburgers and the like. My wife had Italian food in for lunch the La Bistro and I had sandwiches a few times in The Las Rambles and they were great. We were very satisfied with all the food in the Seven Seas dining room and felt the Garden buffet was as good as any other buffet we have had. In other reviews we have seen a few that criticized the food especially in the buffets, but my goodness people its just as the name implies one step above a cafeteria. If you wanted better food go to the main dining rooms and quit belly aching! Debarkation Absolute chaos thanks to the United States government! U.S. Customs was to be on the ship at 7:00 a.m. to begin the customs procedure in the Observatory Lounge. We were waiting in lounge chairs on Deck 11 and witnessed them finally showing up in the parking lot at 8:21 a.m. By the time they got on board and the process started it was almost 9:00 a.m. When the wife and I went through the Customs agent did nothing more than stamp our form without even reading it just as he did for those in front and in back of us. The procedure to disembark was to be by color code of your bag tags. The first two colors were called and the process started about 9:40 a.m. Then about twenty minutes later we heard that everyone that had been through customs could exit the ship. We headed for the stairwell only to find the entire stairwell jammed with people. We made it to deck 7 when the jam up stopped us cold in our tracks on our way to deck 3 to disembark. By 10:20 we were off the ship and headed for our bag color code area. We got the bags and left the area to our hotel via cab. This chaos would have been completely avoided if our illustrious government workers would have showed up at the ship on time rather than an hour and twenty minutes late! Recommendation We highly recommend this ship and this cruise. The ports of call are good, but the Panama Canal experience is a once in a life time experience. The staff of the Norwegian Sun were all the friendliest we have seen always saying hello no matter where you might see one and they are extremely helpful. We will definitely sail on NCL in the future. Read Less
Sail Date April 2006
This was our third cruise and all three were with Norwegian Cruise Line. Two on the Sun and one on the Spirit. We left (my wife and I) from Miami and the embarkation process was terrible. It took two hours to get from the airport to the ... Read More
This was our third cruise and all three were with Norwegian Cruise Line. Two on the Sun and one on the Spirit. We left (my wife and I) from Miami and the embarkation process was terrible. It took two hours to get from the airport to the ship. Apparently there were two Norwegian ships in Miami and this caused problems in transportation from the airport to the ship. Once at the ship we had no problems getting on the ship. We shouldn't since most of the people already were processed. We fault Norwegian with the delays at the airport. They should have had enough busses there to drive us the few miles to the ship. But this can happen every once in awhile and the weather was great and after all we were on vacation so whether we sit in the airport or the boat is no big deal. The Panama Cruise or any cruise that is of longer duration than 7 days appear to attract the older crowd. Since we were on a 17 day cruise, approximately 89% of the passengers appeared to be over 65. I guess they have the money and the time. We are in our late fifties so we were pretty much in the ballpark. This has benefits, since the older passengers have a tendency to eat early and go to bed early. This is great when it comes to supper. You get to sit down right away and service is fantastic. Instead of the 2 hour suppers aboard the Norwegian Spirit we were able to take our time and finish about 45 minutes to an hour. The food was quite good in the main dinning rooms. In the past we used the specialty restaurants like the Bistro. This time around we only used the specialty restaurants twice. The food was always good and served hot. You finish with the appetizer when they bring you the salad. You never had to request anything. Wine is a little expensive but it is a vacation and you can ask them to cork the bottle and serve the remaining wine on the following night. There is one thing about the Sun and that is the people who work on the ship. They are always helpful, polite and efficient. This differed in a small degree with the Spirit. The ship is always clean and they devised a new way of serving food in the buffet restaurants on the top floors. The have set up stations at different places so if it is pizza you want you go to a station apart from the regular meals. They had a station serving hot dogs/hamburgers etc. and stations for more elaborate food. They use to provide trays when you ate upstairs in the buffet areas but have stopped doing this. Instead you have plates and saucers. At first it was annoying because you had to go back for dessert etc. However, after two days I noticed haw fast you can get your food by not using trays. People using trays try to stock up on food so the line slows up. We found out later that this was not the only reason. apparently, this reduces the tendency to load up your tray with food that you end up never eating. Less waste means more profit for the ship. Excursions were typical of all the cruise lines and there was a good selection. Costa Rica was rich in wildlife and rain forest. Mexico was beautiful on the Pacific Side. As a matter of fact Acapulco has to be one of the most beautiful city at night that we have ever seen. There were two other cruise ships when we were there , Princess and Holland America. However, only the Sun left after dark so we could see the city at night and it was worth it. Think of Christmas decorations that go on for miles ,up and down huge mountains, from street lamps and houses, it was quite a spectacle. San Francisco was also a beautiful city and a day or two there is well worth the price. Try to see the building where there are sofas/chairs/pianos hanging out windows etc. Disembarkation was terrible because when we arrived at San Francisco there were already four ships in port and US Customs only came on board two hours later than was planned. Once customs was on the ship the process went very quickly. The shuttles to the hotel and airport were well done and did not resemble when we got on board. Two things that I feel I should mention and that ios the Casino and the art Auction. Don't waste your money in the casino as far as the slots are concerned. NCL advertises its Casinos but the payout appears to be lower than what they state. You can win the small credits but any credits > 50 is few and far between. Jackpots are rare as far as I could see. The art auction is a lot of fun if you don't take it too seriously and not accept everything you are told. They claim that the paintings can be brought in with no tax or duty payable. When we hit the canadian customs this turned out to be incorrect. We asked on the ship and this is what whew were told. They also told us that they would pay any taxes or duty that was charged. Well we will find out in 5 to 6 weeks when the paintings arrive by UPS. It was great cruise and we thoroughly enjoyed it especially going through the Panama Canal Read Less
Sail Date April 2006
One word describes everything about the ship and the cruise - FANTASTIC. We sailed out of LA on a beautiful September evening with a glorious sunset to see us off. We have sailed NCL before on the Spirit and both ships were equally as ... Read More
One word describes everything about the ship and the cruise - FANTASTIC. We sailed out of LA on a beautiful September evening with a glorious sunset to see us off. We have sailed NCL before on the Spirit and both ships were equally as good. Our cabin on Norway deck first behind the bridge was perfect for what we wanted. Just one small complaint - the plastic balcony chairs could have been more comfortable - don't know how some of the large rear ends fit on them! We enjoyed all the shore visits - even though it tipped it down with rain in Acapulco because of the proximity of Hurricane Stan. We avoided two hurricanes but there was no discomfort due to rough seas - only the large swimming pool caused a problem with the motion of the water - and had to be closed some days, but the other pool was always available. We trekked the Sierra Madre in Puerto Vallarta, zip lined in Costa Rica and went down in a submarine in Aruba - unforgettable! The choice of food was excellent - both the formal dining rooms and the buffet. Plenty of places to sit and only short queuing for breakfast at the buffet when it was a shore day - everyone up early and raring to go! We are an English couple in our sixties and although many of our fellow passengers were older we thoroughly enjoyed everything on offer - nightly shows, lectures, exercise, but we drew the line at Bingo! Not our thing. We would not hesitate to go on an NCL cruise again and found the Sun a friendly happy ship with a lovely crew. Nothing was too much trouble. Read Less
Sail Date October 2005
I took this cruise with my husband. We took the 7 day Alaska cruise on this same ship last year, and enjoyed it so much that we decided to take a longer cruise. I can't say enough about the service we received. Everyone was so ... Read More
I took this cruise with my husband. We took the 7 day Alaska cruise on this same ship last year, and enjoyed it so much that we decided to take a longer cruise. I can't say enough about the service we received. Everyone was so attentive to our needs and very friendly. After only two days, we were on a first name basis with almost everyone who served us. Embarkation was a breeze. After arriving at the airport, we were put on a bus to the pier. From the pier, after our luggage was offloaded and checked by us it was minutes until we were on the ship. The itinerary was excellent! We had fun at all the ports. We booked tours at only two of the ports, the others we explored on our own. There was something to do every minute of everyday on the ship. The food was excellent, we ate in the restaurants every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We only used the buffets for snacks and such. The specialty restaurants are worth the extra charge. Where else can you have a 4 course meal in a really nice French or Italian restaurant for only $15 per person? The entertainment was really good too! The comedians, the bands, the shows - all were FABULOUS! Debarkation was easy too, just wait until your color tag is called and you're off the ship in minutes! Overall, I have to say that we had a wonderful time and will definitely cruise with Norwegian again. As Fabio (one of the entertainers) would say - EXCITING - NO? Read Less
Sail Date October 2004
We booked the shuttle through NCL to pick us up at LAX, and they never showed up..I called NCL from the airport and we were left on hold for almost an hour! Finally got a shuttle outside to the ship, on our own and was one of the first ... Read More
We booked the shuttle through NCL to pick us up at LAX, and they never showed up..I called NCL from the airport and we were left on hold for almost an hour! Finally got a shuttle outside to the ship, on our own and was one of the first ones at the port to embark. We did our pre-registration online, and it ended up taking 45 minutes to check us in, because the workers didn't know how to use the new software, and had to enter everyone manually! People were still not checked in until late in the early evening. Once we were on, the ship is beautiful! The ship was spotless. I love that they have you sanitize your hands before you enter, and all throughout the ship. I liked the atrium, very tall and the skylight went all the way to the top. We had an inside cabin, the biggest of any ship I had ever experienced. I'm not one to complain about food on a cruise, because of all the choice. Well, it was the worst food ever! The buffet was so small and full of fried finger foods and there was no choice. Everything looked unappetizing (and I love food)..The only plus was the dessert section, which was bigger than the buffet itself. In the morning for breakfast, the eggs looked like soup. The main dining rooms were only good 2 nights. The choices were strange, and we left unsatisfied. I recommend the steak..there was no lobster or prime rib offered on this cruise. The best was the Pacific Heights Cooking Light Restaurant, no charge, and delicious! Blew the other dining away. No chocolate buffet was disappointing. Entertainment was fantastic. the best shows I have seen. Disembarking was the best of any ship. Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
Norwegian Sun Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.2
Dining 4.0 3.7
Entertainment 3.5 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.0
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.8
Family 3.5 3.8
Shore Excursion 3.5 3.7
Enrichment 3.0 3.3
Service 3.5 4.1
Value For Money 3.5 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.1

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