September 2016 - 7 Night Alaska Sawyer Glacier Southbound (Seward To Vancouver) Cruise on Norwegian Sun
This was my 5th overall cruise. I've been on 3 with Carnival. This was my 2nd with NCL.
Firstly, I returned to NCL due to the wonderful experience I had on the Epic. The entertainment was excellent, the crew was friendly, and ship was wonderfully designed with much to explore.
Sadly, this was not the case on NCL Sun. This was, without a doubt, the worst cruise I've been on, and the first time I've regretted a vacation.
Dining: There were all the usual options for dining from the main buffet open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to the 2 dining rooms open for breakfast and dinner. Additionally, there were several specialty restaurants. We did not want to pay for the specialty restaurants as we did not find it worth the cost in the past. Previously, we dined at Le Bistro. The food on this ship was terrible. Food in the dining rooms was frequently lukewarm. There was not much variety. The dining rooms and Garden Cafe (buffet) served the same foods. The only difference was one you stand in line with other people and then search for a table you may never find to sit at (buffet) or you are seated and are served formally with cooler food (dining room). My family is vegetarian, and previously on the Epic, we were told to always inform them ahead of time we are vegetarian so the wait staff now what we can or can't eat. Last time, a waiter repeatedly told me a soup had no meat in it when it did. So, this time, I notified the ship staff ahead of time. Did this do anything? Nope... none of the wait staff knew we were vegetarian unless I asked them questions about the menu. Moreover, NCL has now started marking what dishes are vegetarian friendly, but they don't even do it properly. They only had the same 2 dishes that appear on the menu regularly marked as vegetarian. There were other vegetarian dishes that rotated through and were never marked as such. For new cruisers or people who would hesitate to question the wait staff, they may think only 2 items are safe to eat on the menu every day!
Crew- This was the least friendly crew I've encountered. They rarely smiled or spoke to you unless it was necessary. The room steward regularly failed to restock our soap even when called and asked for more. There was only one crew member who was friendly- I Nyoman. He worked in the Seven Seas dining room.
Entertainment- There was rarely anything to do unless you wanted to spend all your time in the casino or listening to the same band multiple times a day. They had events/games shows daily, but those were sometimes cancelled due to "lack of participation." Well, its a small ship.... they should know activities won't bring more than 30 people usually. There was a very nice crew talent show. Several crew members were able to do dances from their home country, which was a great experience. A magician and comedian were brought on. Both were very good but were not available daily as on other ships. The magician did spend one of his time slots trying to sell a memory seminar. Everything is for sale on NCL...
Excursions- There were the usual slew of Alaskan excursions available. We did Rafting in Juneau, Snorkeling in Ketchikan, and Ziplining as well as Rock Climbing in Skagway. I recommend all of the excursions minus snorkeling in Ketchikan. We snorkeled in Alaska before at Sitka. It was incredible. The marine life glittered... there was so much to see! So, we thought it would be great to try it in Ketchikan. It was AWFUL. The wetsuits were too tight. I asked to be put in a larger wetsuit twice, and they refused. This resulted in me being unable to breath fully. The lack of oxygen made my muscles cramp up. Several others had the same experience. Even the guides stated people struggle with these new suits... THEN WHY NOT let people where bigger ones? This was a huge safety issue. I couldn't participate in the excursion at all and repeatedly asked to be taken to shore, and the guides would not do so. They handed me a flotation device. Then as I continued to struggle, they said they'd pull me along. However, the currents were so strong, I had to help swim, which was nearly impossible for me to do with the lack of oxygen. Furthermore, this was not even like other snorkeling excursions. There almost nothing to see in the water. It was filled with glacier silt. The guides would not let us just look around. They kept forcing everyone to swim from spot to spot. They'd pick something out of the water and hand it around. And then we'd all have to move on again.
Ports- First, our itinerary changed the day before embarkation. Apparently, there was some issue with water sanitation and how it had to be handled in Alaska that resulted in needing to change the order of ports. It also meant we did not see Sawyer Glacier. I don't understand why we could not have been informed any earlier. I took this cruise specifically for the route by Sawyer Glacier, because I've been to Alaska before and seen Mendenhall Glacier. The funny thing was, the day of embarkation, we took the train from Anchorage to Seward (the port). To get on the train, we completed the embarkation check-in. Therefore, we saw and spoke to NCL staff... none of them brought up the itinerary change. On the train ride, no one mentioned it. Then, during the last hour of the 4.5 hour train ride, the staff hand out an announcement about the changes. Obviously, they didn't want to hear anyone's grumbling, but we still should have been told at check-in.
I will say, this was the fastest embarkation and disembarkation ever. However, there were no instructions on disembarkation. Thankfully, we were experienced on cruising and had an idea what to do and where to go. Unlike other cruises, they did not provide handouts in the state room explaining how disembarkation works... or our room steward never bothered handing them out. Who knows...
All in all, I do not recommend this cruise. There was also a port stop in Icy Strait Point. This town was literally developed for tourism purposes. There is very little to do there. It is a cute, tiny area built for cruise ships. While it is fun to see, I would not pick a cruise just to ensure you have this port in your itinerary. Consider it a bonus stop where you may or may not get off the ship. They advertise it as having the longest zipline in the world, but it is one zipline versus the multiple lines/courses you get elsewhere, and it is motorized.