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