NCL Sun Review September 29 – October 4 2014 and Blues Cruise October 4 – 11th
We arrived in Vancouver a couple of days before the cruise and stayed at the Westin Bayshore. It was close to the cruise port with easy access to Stanley ... Read More
NCL Sun Review September 29 – October 4 2014 and Blues Cruise October 4 – 11th
We arrived in Vancouver a couple of days before the cruise and stayed at the Westin Bayshore. It was close to the cruise port with easy access to Stanley Park and amenities. It was raining on embarkation day, but at the port we entered a covered parking area, so we were not out in the elements at all.
I wondered why NCL mentioned in the documents to arrive at noon for a 4pm departure. We had to clear US Customs at the cruise port, which can take a couple of hours. It only took a short while, thank goodness. We then breezed through security. Within a short time we were on board the Sun.
We had booked the 5 day cruise from Vancouver to Alaska, then we would be on for the next leg, the 7 day fully chartered Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise.
We decided to explore the ship and had a good wander around. Areas of the ship are worn and some carpets needed to be replaced. This is to be expected, the ship is 13 years old. The ship seemed to be in good condition, I am sure it will get exterior work done before it reaches Tampa. The long, wet season in Alaska doesn’t help with getting exterior work done.
We had 0007 balcony cabin on the 10th deck for the 5 day cruise, we switched to 0056 balcony cabin, also on the 10th deck, for the Blues Cruise. Both cabins were fine. They were clean and well organized. We weren’t fond of the bathrooms, those darn circular showers! We had had the same darn showers on the Caribbean Princess, so I knew I had to rest my leg on the toilet lid when I wanted to shave my legs. The shower curtain was just a little *too* friendly for my liking!
The cabin stewards, Jogie (0007) and Rhonda (0056) did a wonderful job and were great at helping with our extra requests. I liked that the balcony’s had balusters instead of Plexiglas, I could really see the ocean!
We had purchased to Ultimate Dining Package for both legs of the trip. We gave up eating in the main dining rooms a few years ago. I am not a fan of banquet food, I like the quieter atmosphere of the smaller dining rooms and I like my meals freshly prepared. As a side note, I have some hearing difficulties and the loud din in the dining room makes me a little crazy.
We ate at all the speciality dining rooms. We really enjoyed La Cucina (it has a regular, nothing fancy menu) as it was easy for me to carry on a conversation. The service was very good overall. The food was tasty. My hubby really enjoyed the pasta with hot sausage. My fave was the spaghetti carbonara and the uber yummy chocolate torte. Yum! We had three dinners there over the course of the 12 days.
We had three dinners in Cagney’s. The steaks were very good. I am puzzled as to why they individually serve the sides in small containers. If it was family style, ok. But otherwise, just put things on the plate! We tried most of the sides, and they ranged from OK (baked potato) to really tasty (potato gratin). I think the ambiance could be improved with this room. Turn down the horrible Lawrence Welk music and put down some tablecloths. Serviced ranged from excellent to ok. When it was busy, they were definitely thrown off a bit. Overall it was a very positive experience.
We had two meals at Moderno for dinner. OMG! Definitely pace yourself! I eat only lean beef and chicken, so I only had a few things. Hubby tried everything! I had to roll him out of there. The meats that I had were moist, tender and flavourful. Hubby enjoyed everything he ate. The sides are typical for this type of restaurant, a small salad bar with things like veggies, cheeses, salamis, breads, soups etc. Everything was fresh and tasty.
We went to Le Bistro twice. It is a lovely spot. Great for a romantic evening, or an intimate evening with friends. This is not a spot for children. It isn’t. There was a couple with a howling baby there on the 1st leg of our cruise. It is a small restaurant. Folks are there for a quiet evening out. Just sayin’.
We went to Teppanyaki twice. Once on the 5 day – it was pretty much fully booked the entire week. On the Blues cruise, there was a fair amount of availability, folks want to watch the shows rather than have a fixed dining time. Both times the food was very good and the chefs were entertaining. Overall, two very good evenings!
There were several areas to eat breakfast and lunch. The main dining room, the cafeteria (garden café?), the great outdoors and Moderno. We tended to eat in Moderno or the Great Outdoors. I really liked the pasta station for lunch or getting salad and fruit in the small stations. There isn’t a huge selection in the smaller venues, but the main cafeteria had quite a lot of selections. There was a good variety of Indian vegetarian dishes. The food was hot and replaced frequently. There were several pool side BBQ’s over the course of the full 12 days. For those who complained about the “lack of selection” should just travel with their personal chef the next time they cruise ;)
The staff were outstanding! We attended the meet and greet for the first leg of the cruise. Several of the ship’s officers were in attendance. Brian Walters, the Hotel director, Dan Dyer the Food and Beverage Director, Denton Liang the head chef, Ligaya Dagasdas the Group Services Coordinator, Edgar Horiandor the head housekeeper, Gary Bryan, the Restaurant manager and Winchester Barrack the Beverage manager. The cruise director Richard Matic was everywhere (holy smokes he has energy!) to be found on the 5 day portion of the cruise. I can’t stress enough how good the staff and crew were on the Sun. Hats off to Mr. Brian Walters for running a happy ship. I thought it was great when Mr. Walters donned a cook’s cap and helped serve at the poolside BBQ, he was dancing and swaying to some awesome blues under the hot sun on the blues cruise. He is a hands on guy!
The meet and greet was on the 5 day portion of the cruise. Thanks to Barb (Wildcatllamas) who arranged the meet and greet. This is a great opportunity folks! Show up to the meet and greet. On the chartered cruise we do not do meet and greets. So my fellow blues cruisers (John and Delberta) on the first leg took advantage and stayed afterwards to have a little chat with Brian Walters and Dan Dyer. It was great to let them know of the some of the challenges that they would face the following week. It is a completely different cruiser on a chartered cruise, many will never set foot on a “snooze cruise”.
Ligaya Dagasdas was wonderful in setting up our FB/Chatboard/CC group get together. She kindly arranged juice, water and coffee with lots of cake for our group. We had a get together at Champs bar on deck 12. We were hanging out in the heat watching the stage and dance floor being set up.
On the 5 day portion of the cruise, our friends John and Delberta had dinner with Dan Dyer the F&B Director (with Barb Wildcatllamas too!) and as a little surprise, Dan offered to take them on a behind the scenes tour. I begged to come along, and he said yes! WOW! We got into the galley for the main dining room, all the provisioning areas. I was surprised to see all the boxes of exactly the same stuff that we would have a home. Andy Boy vegetables, fresh eggs, fresh meats that are butchered on site, fresh fruit and eggs etc. The bake shop makes just about everything fresh every day, including the hamburger rolls. The cake and pastry area was baking lots of lovely cakes and goodies yummy. We saw Dan’s quarters (an outside cabin with a port hole, it was surprisingly large), the crew and officer’s messes, the crew lounge, the recycling and garbage areas. It was wonderful to see behind the scenes!
The entertainment on the 5 day cruise had lots of singers and dancers with a band. Not really my cup of tea, but most of the passengers on board were having loads of fun ïŠ There was a comedian, Noodles and some Gaucho guy who did a comedy act.
The 7 day cruise on the LRBC cruise had this line up:
• , Taj Mahal Trio, Bassekou Kouyate & Deva Mahal w/ Fredericks Brown
• â€¨Los Lobos
• Eric Burdon & the Animals
• â€¨Elvin Bishop w/ Special Guest Roy Gaines
• â€¨The Lowrider Band
• â€¨Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue w/ Tommy Castro Band, Magic Dick, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Deanna Bogart
• â€¨Royal Southern Brotherhood w/ Guest Bart Walker
• Ruthie Foster
• â€¨Tommy Castro & the Painkillers
• â€¨Ronnie Baker Brooks (7-piece band)
• â€¨Janiva Magness
• â€¨The Mannish Boys Revue w/ Curtis Salgado, Lloyd Jones, Sugaray Rayford, Kid Ramos, Steve Freund
• â€¨Trampled Under Foot
• Bernard Allison
• â€¨Johnny Rawls Soul Revue
• â€¨Colin James (Canada)
• â€¨Curtis Salgado / Lloyd Jones Duo
• â€¨Doug MacLeod
• â€¨Carolyn Wonderland
• â€¨California Honeydrops
• â€¨Dennis Jones
• â€¨The 44′s
• â€¨Eden Brent (Piano Bar Host)
• â€¨Leon Blue (Piano Bar Host)
• Deanna Bogart (Piano Bar Host)
• â€¨Scottie Miller (Piano Bar Host)
• â€¨Steve Willis (Piano Bar Host)
• Tim Williams (’14 Blues Foundation IBC Winner)
• Randy Oxford (Jam Host)
• Teresa James (Surprise Guest)
So it is fair to say that any regular cruise ship entertainment will never stack up to us blues cruisers. The staff and crew on the Sun were out listening to the music until all hours. It was funny when a staff member in the salon referred to the music schedule as her “dancing schedule” ïŠ The F & B Director Dan Dyer is a HUGE fan of Eric Burdon. Dan was thrilled to meet him! Eric Burdon got lots of special treatment from Dan ïŠ right down to his very own NCL badge that had “Eric Burdon UK” with a Union Jack on it ïŠ Dan told me that he also did a behind the scene tour for the artists as well. Someone caught part of the tour on their phone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGyTgymJW3Y I hope the link works! It is Deanna Bogart playing her sax in the galley, much to the delight of the crew!
The venues on the Sun for the LRBC bands were fantastic. The best pool deck set up! The large pool was covered and had a dance floor put on it (steel beams and posts for support, so no worries there!) and the smaller pool was kept open all week. The main show lounge was good, but a bit too chilly for me. The observation lounge was great. Lots of comfortable chairs and great bar service! The piano bar was always packed, lots of great jams happening with whatever musicians showed up. The surprise was the atrium became the wee hours jam area. The California Honeydrops seemed to love that location for a bit of a party at 4am. Mike Zito sat in just about everywhere and my favourite, Colin James was jamming all over the ship. I think Bernard Allison cloned himself, cos I saw him everywhere. There were some really special moments on board. Ruthie Foster singing her heart out in honour of Sista’ Monica who had just passed. Not a dry eye to be found. The astonishing Carolyn Wonderland surprising us with every set, showing the depth of her talent. The Low Rider band coming on stage, and telling us they would play anything anyone wanted to hear LOL! Royal Southern Brotherhood scorching the stage every time they played. Colin James giving is high energy shows leaving everyone breathless after each set. What a week! It was a hot sultry day in Mazatlán; we got back to the ship early. Soul legend Johnny Rawls was playing on the pool deck. We were all swaying to the music in the hot sun with a cold beverage. Just perfect.
My hubby and I had a wonderful time. We treated the cruises as two completely different experiences. The 5 day was relaxing and fun. We spend time with our friends. We all rested and enjoyed the low key ports of Seattle and Astoria. I would do this again in a heartbeat.
Our 7 day Blues cruise was a blast! It definitely takes a few days to recover from lack of sleep and over indulgence of alcohol and rich food. It was wonderful to catch up with friends from past blues cruises and check out the awesome line up. Ports are very much secondary on a blues cruise. We did not get off the ship in Cabo (we have been there on land vacations), we saw a bit in Mazatlán, and just enjoyed the beach and amenities at the Westin in Puerto Vallarta (I have been there on a land vacay as well). Probably half the folks on the blues cruise did not leave the ship the whole week. Port days are a day to sleep.
Well, it is off get organized for the next LRBC in January…..It is on a ship in the Caribbean. East? West? Who knows? who cares! It’s the line up that is important!