Norwegian Sun Cruise Review by yankeegirlinkiwiland
- Sail Date: July 2017
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: Family Balcony
I did HEAPS of research and was the main trip-planner for our group, so I read loads of reviews and got thoroughly bogged down trying to choose which cruise, which itinerary, which ship, etc. In the end the sail date from Vancouver, one-way itinerary to Seward and port stops including sailing through Glacier Bay were the kickers, along with a free Ultimate Beverage Package and 3 specialty dining vouchers sealed the deal for us.
OUR ROOM: Because we got such a good deal (booked over a year in advance via NCL) we all decided to splurge on balcony rooms. And our room was inter-connecting with my parents. We were delighted with our choice. The Alaskan air, views and sea are all so stunning, fresh and always changing. It was wonderful to stand on our own quiet balcony and take in the view, look out for whales and dolphins and get a bit of fresh air.
We chose rooms on the 9th floor towards the back of the boat. We loved it there. Quiet and easy to go up to the sports bar or down to the 7 Seas Main dining room. We ate most meals there - including fantastic breakfasts and 3 course lunches (if you wanted).
FOOD: I was a bit worried about the food - I have a sulphite allergy and my Mom has a low-salt restriction along with being mostly vegetarian. We followed info on the internet and spoke to the staff in the 7 Seas restaurant on our first night (along with including the info in our booking). They really, really tried. Several people came to talk to us. Even when we went to the specialty restaurants they seemed to know us (must have logged something in the system). In general they seemed to want us to pre-order our meals the night before. Fine but there were a few issues. It seemed like there was an 'allergy meal' which they sort of had ready to go... re-heated fish or beef with a baked potato and steamed veggies. Got a bit boring after 2 nights of the same thing running. AND my Mom's meal had loads of salt one night - so I don't know if they stuffed up or was just a pre-prepared 'special meal' that everyone with an allergy gets? After the 3rd or 4th night we just started ordering off the menu and asking for sauces on the side and things like that.
The food overall was excellent. To be fair we mostly ate at the sit-down restaurants. The buffet looked excellent and fresh when they first put the food out but then seemed to deteriorate and wasn't refilled that regularly, and was generally very crowded. We popped in for snacks occasionally or to get our son an early dinner.
Probably my only complaint about the food was the Kids Menu. There were about 5 options and a few games (crayons) but it never changed. My son was interested the first night but after being handed the exact same thing the next night obviously lost interest. It wouldn't take much to have a new sheet and a few different options each night - would it?
In the end we started ordering main meals for my son and extra sides of 'steamed veggies' and things. It really wouldn't take much to have some fresh, healthy, simple options with smaller portions here. If kids are happy and healthy then surely parents are happy too, right?
LAYOUT OF THE SHIP: Overall it's pretty easy to get around but it took us a few days to figure out how to get to the library and the best way to get to the pool (NOT through the buffet). As this was our first cruise I guess many ships have to maximize space but the layout seemed a bit strange at times.
The ship itself is fine. I was worried it was an 'older' ship. She's definitely showing a bit of wear and tear but it was very clean so we didn't mind. We did look enviously at the water slides and huge outside movie screens on some of the other ships we saw. But, oh well. Fine for Alaska.
KIDS CLUB: We registered my son for Kids club on the first day (odd that they closed off the corridor to Splash Academy for most of the first day. I guess they were doing up the rooms, but it was annoying). He only went for one night and said it was 'ok'. The caregivers seemed enthusiastic and they were very accommodating - you could call any time and check on them and they would give you an update or bring your child to the phone if you wanted. I felt very secure leaving him there. I guess with 6 adults and 1 child we didn't really need it.
POOLS: There are two pools (one deep and mostly VERY cold) and 4 spas. The spas were only just warm, which was a shame. It would have been lovely to sit in a hot spa with a drink and look at the scenery. My son jumped in the pool a few times but it was mostly empty. We had generally pretty good weather but Alaska is Alaska and when the ship is moving it is windy.
The shallower pool was closed a few times when the seas got a bit rocky (drained and a net over it). The kids pool and spa was never opened.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS AND STAFF: Almost every single staff member we encountered was fantastic. The waitstaff in the dining rooms were so helpful and friendly. Mostly people from the Philippines but a few from Brazil, Jamaica and eastern Europe. Lots have been with NCL for 5-8 years or more. They seemed really happy and eagerly talked about their families back home.
We chose to eat at Cagney's, La Churrasca (the Brazillian place) and Le Bistro. Cagneys and Le Bistro were excellent. I'd rank them equal with a nice restaurant at home. Even though the food in the main dining rooms was good, it was just a bit better (cooked with a bit more care, seemed like better quality ingredients) and the experience was a bit more upmarket. The staff were really helpful with what was/not included with our 'free' inclusions. Basically you can have just about anything you want but only one main, even 2 starters and 2 desserts if you wanted! We never went that far - one starter, main and dessert was more than enough for all of us.
We weren't that impressed with the Brazillian place. The salad bar was good - better than any other restaurant. But the meat was very very slow to come out. They told us what to expect when we arrived and we waited and waited and waited for the eye fillet and the lamb. The sausages kept coming round or there was no one. It was fun, but wouldn't go back.
SPORTS BAR: We loved this place. It took us a while to figure out that you could order food here too - wings, 'comfort food' etc. The Great Outdoors buffet is also just outside - so easy to pop out and bring food back if you wanted. The main bartender (I forget his name) was great and was ALWAYS there. I don't think he slept! We were there late one night to watch the Rugby and we were able to turn up the volume and take over a corner with a few other rugby fans.
ULTIMATE BEVERAGE PACKAGE: We found this fantastic. I am a cocktail drinker (no wines or beer due to the sulphite allergy) so I worked my way through all sorts of cocktails. My favourites were the Mojitos and the bloody marys. All the standards - gin and tonic, etc were good too. The Margaritas were a disappointment (pre-mixed stuff) and some of the other ones just didn't suit me. I eyed up a few of the 'expensive' drinks but never felt the need to pay extra. The staff were all really clear about whether you had to pay extra for something. Anything $15 or under was included, if you wanted one of the special $18 ones you just had to pay extra.
We found it pretty easy to flag down waiters. Occasionally there was a line at the bar. They seemed to let us order 2 drinks at a time, which was great. Either we could 'stock up' or my DH could go order a drink for me and a beer for himself and then I'd go in turn. I saw a few people abusing it - sat through the poor bartender having to tell a young man that he was clearly NOT an older lady (he passed over her card) and she had to be summoned to clarify if her card was lost (it wasn't) and that she should not pass on her card to others. Seemed pretty cheeky to me - like the whole family was trying to work off one UBP. (They take your picture at embarkation and it flashes up whenever you use your card, so I don't think it's easy to cheat nor fair).
I would recommend carrying your card on a lanyard - but in a clear pocket thing. We punched holes in ours and we had to detach the lanyard every time for staff to slide the card through. Bit of a pain.
GETTING ON/OFF THE SHIP: We signed up for the 10-10/30am embarcation. Nothing happened until after 11. At least we got to sit in chairs (they controlled people staying in order) then we checked in and went through to more chairs. Be sure to check your card after they check you in. One set of grandparents didn't get their UDP (dining package) printed on the card and we didn't notice until the 2nd night when we went to Cagneys. It took 3 trips to Guest Services and another card to fix it. In the end they printed new cards and had to credit back their account.
Getting on/off at ports was super easy. We never encountered a line and was all handled really well.
Disembarking was fine - there are time slots with colours and you choose accordingly with tags. We chose the latest one and it was pretty easy although a lot of stuff on the ship was closed - we had a very leisurely breakfast in 7 Seas that morning.
EXCURSION CREDIT: My In-Laws really don't drink much so instead of the UBP they chose an Excursion Credit. This was a huge pain in the a**. We found out after booking and paying that they were unable to use this to pre-book an excursion (ie through the My NCL website). The NCL Australia lady I called said they could apply for an 'onboard credit' once we were on the ship, worth $200. But this turned out to be un-true. The way they do it is $50 per port and $50 onboard credit. So in the end they only were able to claim $100 each. And again took several visits to guest services. WOULD NOT RECOMMEND. The UBP would have been a better deal for them, even with only a few drinks a night.
GUEST SERVICES and LOST CHILD: This was probably the only area where the staff were not that helpful. We visited regularly due to 2 of our cards not being printed properly, then also the issues with the Excursion Credit. I also went there once when my son got lost. The system for a lost child is the absolute worst I have ever encountered. We were up the Sports Bar and were going next door to the Brazillian restaurant for dinner. Our room was directly below us. I figured our son was somewhere around this area, but after repeatedly checking all these places he was no where to be found. I went to the restaurant staff to ask for help and was told I had to go to the 5th floor to Guest Services. When I got there I had to wait in line, then had to fill in an entire PAGE of info before they called Security (again a wait for three guys go show up). I was going out of my mind and starting to get REALLY upset. It seriously took another 20 minutes from when I realised he was missing. There has got to be a better system! In the end I lost the plot, told them I was going back to the Sports Bar to look and promptly found him when I arrived. At least the reception staff at the Brazillian restaurant were able to quickly call Security when i told them we found him. I can't understand why I couldn't stay where I was and have Security Called (they could have come with forms and stayed there) .
ENTERTAINMENT: My parents and my inlaws went to a few of the shows and said they were really good. Fantastic singing and dancing from the Production Cast. We tried a few of the 'game shows' but left as they were a bit hokey and very crowded. The Ranger talk at 1pm in Glacier bay was pretty good.
GYM: The gym was pretty good - heaps of stationary bikes and several treadmills. The rowing machine made me seasick, so although there was only one I didn't use it. I tried to go to the gym on all our 'at sea' days and definitely felt better for it.
One day I saw "boot campy' advertised in the daily but missed that it was a 'pay extra' option. Again, great that the staff was very clear. I opted OUT in the end - $30 for one session!?! It would have been nice to see a few more 'free' classes. They were few and far between. I was expecting daily free yoga classes, etc. Nope.
Overall, I don't know if we are 'cruise people', however I have to say it was brilliant for our extended family group. It made it really easy for us to catch up for dinners and/or breakfasts but generally do our own thing during the day. Would do again with a group of family or friends and would happily recommend Norwegian and the Sun if you want a low-key, relaxed smaller boat.
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Plenty of storage - we unpacked (hang up as much as you can in the closet) and put suitcases under the bed and in the end we had a whole cabinet we didn't use.
We brought one of those hanging pocket things and used this for cameras, lanyards, phones, etc. It was helpful but not essential. There was plenty of space for 2 adult and 1 child (on pull-out couch - firm).
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