Norwegian Sun Cruise Review by RSchultz
- Sail Date: June 2004
- Destination: Alaska
The cruise was my 3rd, and I booked it based on the recommendations of my travel agent. I'd informed her that for this cruise, we wanted the best in amenities. Both of my prior cruises were with Carnival and had been fantastic but everything I've heard regarding Carnival tends to indicate they are the least posh of all the cruise lines. Thusly, NCL it was and off we went.
Living in BC, we drove to Vancouver. Beware driving to Vancouver, allow plenty of time to get to the port. Luckily we'd arranged for parking prior to our arrival, however, the trip from the parking to the port was delayed by traffic constantly and we arrived close to 4:30 pm.
We were relieved of our bags at the curb, which was nice and then we spent an hour or so in line waiting to clear customs. Boarding was well done and our bags showed up in our room shortly after we boarded.
Travelling all day to get to the port had left us unfed. We weren't too worried about this, hey, its a cruise ship! Sadly, the only option for dining the day we left was on the top deck at the Sports Bar where they had set up an barbecue sort of deal. The food offered was surprisingly pedestrian and it was cold and windy while we tried to eat. A culinary experience best left to gain distance in the past.
Sadly, after that first day, our experience aboard NCL's Norwegian Sun seldom improved. The Freestyle dining experience they tout does two things.
1. One of the most pleasurable side effects of rigid seating is that your server has a great opportunity to get to know you. The result is personalized surface unparalleled in any restaurant in the world. This service is part of what makes the cruise dining experience so wonderful. In Freestyle dining, this amazing feature is absent.
2. The Freestyle experience meant that there were 3 restaurants that were part of our all inclusive dining. All of the other restaurants required a cover charge to take advantage of their fare. Surprisingly, not only was there an initial charge, a lot of the entrees required an additional cover charge.
This caused tremendous logjams at the main (free) restaurants. Given that lineups aren't a great part of dining pleasure, we opted to dine at several of the pay restaurants. Of the three we tried, the French themed, the Italian themed and the Asian Fusion themed, only the French themed was spectacular. The Fusion was disappointing, the Italian tasty but despite the emptiness of the restaurant, our meal took nearly three hours causing us to miss the one show we wanted to see. This was despite advising our server that we had an agenda.
On Carnival, each time we visited the main dining rooms, we walked away satisfied and several times in awe. On NCL, that happened once and it cost us over a 100$ US. The dining experiences in the main free restaurants were good but rather poorly executed for a cruise ship.
Onboard shows on NCL's Sun were deplorable, best described as glorified high school productions. Think Game Shows involving passengers. Once would have been cute, twice overdone, three times...oh come on, four times??? The comedian was second rate but both sadly and luckily, had a short set. The Jean Ryan company apparently had a great show but that's the show we missed while trying to get fed at the Italian pay restaurant.
Plenty of opportunities to go on excursions at each port of call excepting Wrangell. A word though, almost without exception, these excursions are expensive and if you are a heavy person, be prepared to pay a levy if you like helicopters. We took one excursion for a salmon bake/float plane ride which was fabulous. The meal was tasty and the flight enjoyable. Cost was nearly $600 for both of us. Pretty glacier, tasty salmon, costly price tag.
The Money Grab
Cruising brings with it the opportunity for cruise lines to take advantage of the passenger in numerous ways and without exception in my experience, all of the cruise lines do it.
About Carnival, I was fond of saying, they make every effort possible to ensure you leave that boat with your wallet empty BUT, they also make every effort to ensure you do it with a grin on your face.
NCL, was all about the money. It was an in your face experience, pay pay pay and never once did we feel we'd been treated with the respect that such a baldfaced cash grab should entail. Falling asleep on a pillow chocolate caused an embarrassing brown smudge on the sheets (and much laughter). Given the daily cleanings, we made sure to leave the smudge exposed and upon our return that evening, we found out bed nicely made up. However, turning back the covers we found the smudge intact. Our room stewards came to change the bed amidst a subdued apology and guilty looks.
This class of service seemed to be atypical on the ship. Not that it was all bad, just that on an vacation of this magnitude and expense, none of it should be bad.
Alaska itself is beautiful, the glaciers, mountains, whales etc are unequaled. The ports of call, particularly Skagway and Ketchikan while beautiful, exist only to sell you expensive jewelry. Juneau, the largest, is quaint and lovely and they also do their best to sell you expensive jewelry. Wrangell? What the heck? We spent some time talking to some locals who like us, wondered why NCL stopped there.
All in all, I will unequivocally tell you that I will never sail with NCL again. Over and above the cost of our cruise, we had an additional $2000.00 in charges. Those charges included the $600.00 tour and $400.00 spent at the on board jewelry store. Neither of us were drinkers, but with wine and assorted cocktails, laundry, dining etc...we logged another $1000.00 in charges.
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