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View Full Version : Anyone back from the SUN/Alaska recently?


cpristash
June 24th, 2004, 04:52 PM
My husband and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding Anniv. We just booked this cruise yestereday for 7/25/04. I need input ASAP....
What type of clothes, what excursions (yes we like to be active) how long of a ride from seattle or Vancover to the port/ Yikes!!! I need your help!!!!Any info that you can give will be greatly appreciated!!!!

ute_fan
June 24th, 2004, 05:39 PM
As far as clothes, plan on layers. We were there the 2nd week of June. A couple of the days were sunny, the rest were cool and cloudy with showers. An waterproof outer layer should be included, even something a simple as a rain poncho. The weather can change quickly, so layering is the best option. We didn't need heavy winter coats, but if you are going to be doing a glacier excursion you might want more warmth. It does get chilly when you're close to that much ice!

We took our family of 4, so we couldn't afford the dog sledding excursions or helicopter rides. Ours tended to be less physically active excursions, so I will defer to others who have more experience. The one that I would strongly suggest is the catamaran ride from Juneau to Tracy Arm, where you then meet back up with your ship. We saw 4 humpback whales, several bald eagles, and tons of seals on the icebergs. We even saw a couple of seals giving birth. From what I've read, there are also chances of seeing bear and sheep, which we didn't do. You get a lot closer to the glaciers than the main ship does, even though the views from the Sun were also good. It was the highlight of our trip.


Are you flying to Seattle or Vancouver? We flew to Seattle Saturday night, rented a car, drove to Bellingham, and spent the night. We drove the rest of the way to Vancouver on Sunday morning. On the way back, we stopped for lunch just before the border, so I'm not sure exactly how long the drive time was. Obviously, it will vary greatly if you fly to Vancouver, or what transportation you choose to get from Seattle to Vancouver.

Have a wonderful trip. The ship was beautiful, the staff provided excellent service and was very friendly, and we found the food to be delicious. Let me know if you have any more specific questions.

cpristash
June 24th, 2004, 06:53 PM
Thank you so very very much for your imput..it is greatly appreciated! This will be our second time on the SUN it is my favorite ship!!!!!
AS for excursions... I try to book my own (thru the internet...saves mucho $$$$) as the ship excursions are quite pricey! I am trying to get a feel for some of the side trips that people have taken while in port. Your sounds wonderful!
By the way, did you notice any independent operators at the docks that offered the same trip as the ship did? I really can't afford the ship excursions as I am sure that most are booked anyway. But I was wondering what was out there! Thanks again!!!

ute_fan
June 24th, 2004, 10:10 PM
If you look on the Alaska board there are many suggestions for independent operators. I know there is one for helicopters, Capt. Larry for whale watching, etc. Some of them may fill up early too, so you may want to try and get reservations before you go.

The one I mentioned for the Tracy Arm catamaran has to be scheduled through the ship. You board a smaller ship in Juneau that takes off approximately the same time as the Sun. It then travels faster to the Tracy Arm area (stopping for whale watching along the way if any are sighted), and goes to both North and South Sawyer Glacier. It goes right up into the icebergs at South Sawyer Glacier and gets much closer to the face of the glacier. In the meantime, the Sun has traveled and the two ships meet up while the passengers on the Sun get a more distant view of the glacier. You tender off the smaller ship back onto the Sun just in time for dinner!

I know some of the passengers were complaining about the cost when you could also see South Sawyer from the Sun, but the closer view and the proximity to the seals was well worth the cost to me. It also sounded like our views of the whales were probably as good as the ones from the whale watching tours. We saw 4 different humpback whales, with 3 of them diving and doing the "tail" thing.

Another excursion that people really seem to enjoy is the horseback riding trip around Emerald Lake. We rented a car and drove to Emerald Lake, and didn't end up deciding to spend the money on the horseback riding, but a lot of people seem to love it. I think you can probably book that one independently, but again, you would need reservations in advance.

The excursions to Mendenhall Glacier and the city tour of Juneau are readily available at the pier. I don't remember for sure what was available in Ketchikan. We had pre-booked a tour with Sourdough Tours to see both Totem Bight and Saxman Village, but it sounds like you might be looking for something more exciting.

shoreguy
June 24th, 2004, 10:27 PM
Thanks ute_fan
This is my second cruise on the Sun as well. I have already booked the Tracy Arm Catamaran, your review is consistant with others I have read. Fishing in Ketchikan. Whitepass RR.

Any feed back on what to do in Wrangell?

ute_fan
June 25th, 2004, 12:00 AM
Shoreguy--

There isn't a whole lot to do in Wrangell. The town itself is still not commercialized. It is interesting just from the standpoint of not being your typical tourist trap with all the souvenier shops. Not much shopping, even though I did see some kind of cool Wrangell, Alaska sweatshirts after we got back on the ship.

We took the jeep excursion, but at about $120 / person thought it was overpriced. The scenery was beautiful, but we didn't see much wildlife. My teenage daughter has a thing about jeeps and has always wanted one, so she thought the ride was neat. As long as it made her happy, I guess it was worth it.

I also thought about the jet boat ride up the river, but didn't ever see much in the way of reviews on it. It might have been more interesting, but since we had done the catamaran thing I decided to try something a little different.



When are you going?

cpristash
June 25th, 2004, 09:20 AM
We are boarding the SUN on 7/25....What did you wear on the "catamarand thing"? Did you fly into Seattle or Vancover? How far was the port from either of those airports? Questions, questions, questions!!!!

ute_fan
June 25th, 2004, 09:55 AM
The catamaran boat has two inside, enclosed levels on board, seating probably about 100-150 passengers (I'm terrible at estimating seating for something like that). The upper level has a door leading to an outside deck, and there is another open level on top. They don't allow you outside unless the boat is idling to look at something, like a waterfall, or the glaciers. I don't think they allowed us outside to look at the whales, but I could have forgotten.

The inside of the boat is heated, and it actually got too warm. We had taken gloves, jackets, sweatshirts, etc. If you stay outside on the decks looking at the glaciers for long, you might want them, but inside the ship was warm. My daughter, who is normally cold blooded, was removing layers rapidly.

We flew into Seattle. From Salt Lake, I was able to get airfare for about $150 per person, but to fly directly to Vancouver was $450. The $1200 difference for the 4 of us made the decision easy. We had plans to rent a car and drive, looked at our luggage, and ended up going with a minivan. Light packers we're not. As I said below, I just don't remember what the driving time was, as we stopped both ways. If you do rent a car, make sure you get a downtown drop off location. We rented Hertz one way, and Avis the other, and both the drop off locations were about 5 minutes from the pier, maybe 10 with traffic. We took the car rental shuttles both way to the pier.

We didn't go to the Vancouver airport, but did drive past the turn off. I would guess it is probably 30 minutes from the pier. NCL probably does a transfer from the airport to the pier, but you can proably find cheaper transportation on your own. If you end up flying to Seattle, NCL also provides transportation, but it was a lot more expensive than renting the vans for the 4 of us. If it's just the two of you, the difference in the price will obviously be less. I also checked into private bus transportation (forget the name, but if you look at the Port of Vancouver website, it gives directions for how to get from Seattle to Vancouver), Amtrack, and maybe a couple of other options.

If you do decide to schedule the TracyArm excursion through the boat, make sure you get a confirmation#. If you submit on line, call them up and make sure it works. Our excursion went through fine for the Catamaran trip, but they had no record of the excursion to Wrangell. We ended up having to split up into 2 groups of 2, one set for each time slot, rather than having a jeep for the 4 of us. It was kind of disappointing.

shoreguy
June 25th, 2004, 10:13 AM
Shoreguy--

There isn't a whole lot to do in Wrangell. The town itself is still not commercialized. It is interesting just from the standpoint of not being your typical tourist trap with all the souvenier shops. Not much shopping, even though I did see some kind of cool Wrangell, Alaska sweatshirts after we got back on the ship.

We took the jeep excursion, but at about $120 / person thought it was overpriced. The scenery was beautiful, but we didn't see much wildlife. My teenage daughter has a thing about jeeps and has always wanted one, so she thought the ride was neat. As long as it made her happy, I guess it was worth it.

I also thought about the jet boat ride up the river, but didn't ever see much in the way of reviews on it. It might have been more interesting, but since we had done the catamaran thing I decided to try something a little different.



When are you going?

Thanks again - The Jeeps may be an option - all the excursions in Alaska seem overpriced but you miss the best of Alaska without them. We did a southbound on the CCL Spirit two years ago and spent the motherload. Floatplane from Island Wings into Mysty Fjords, Helo onto the Glaicer, and don't regret spending the money. Highlights of the trip.

As you can see below we are booked on 8/22 and the upgrade fairy called yesterday and we now have an AD penthouse. New they would since the ship is not heavily booked. All catagories open excect the owners suite,

I enjoyed your review, I thought it was well balanced. Glad your family enjoyed The Sun.

cpristash
June 25th, 2004, 11:01 AM
Questions, Questions, Questions....it's so funny, the more answers you give the more questions I have!!! sorry...but here goes. What is the web site for the catamarand, as well as how did you know that your book was sold out ?
It is soo ooooo funny, we have been cruising for 8 years... I usually do all this leg work with planes/excursions/rental cars/pre-cruise hotels. Well as I said before, this trip caught me off guard. Since it is just the two of us and I really didn't have the time to do research as well as I am not familiar with the area, I bought the cruise air/transfers from NCL. However, I booked the cruise through a broker. The transfers/flights were about what a pre-cruise rental car/hotel/dinner would cost. So, that's it in a nut shell!
Ii am soooo excited!!!

ute_fan
June 25th, 2004, 01:14 PM
cpristash -- You can go to the ncl.com website and find the section dealing with shore excursions. You can either print out a pdf file and fax it to NCL, or submit your choices on line. We submitted ours online, and didn't realize there was a problem until we got on the ship. The shore excursion tickets were either waiting for us, or delivered to our door shortly after arrival. We had booked the 2 excursions through NCL, and only had tickets to the catamaran activity.

There were two different times for the jeep excursion, and only 3 seats left at each time. They held 2 seats at each time for us, hoping to have another one returned, but it never happened, so we just split up. I had read the suggestions to confirm your excurions, but hadn't bothered. Guess I should have heeded others' advice. Just make sure to confirm your excursions if you book through NCL. I guess they have implemented a new computer system, and are still working through the bugs.

I probably would have booked transfers through NCL if there hadn't been 4 of us, but the savings for 4 people was enough to justify the rental car, hotel, etc. It also gave us time to do a little sight seeing in Seattle.

Shoreguy -- Thanks for your kind words. Our first cruise was in January, and I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. We had friends who have been trying to talk us into going for about 4 years, but I wasn't willing to leave 2 teenagers home alone until now (still don't like to do it). I think a lot of the reason I enjoyed it so much was due to reading these message boards. It helped me know what to expect. I thought maybe continuing to post would help someone else get the most out of their trip. Now, I'm just trying to figure out which bank to rob so I can keep going (just kidding!).

We unfortunately had to do this trip to Alaska somewhat on a budget. We went following my daughter's high school graduation, and hadn't really planned far enough in advance to be able to save enough for some of the better Alaska excursions. Especially with 4 of us, the helicopter trips and plane rides were just WAY too expensive. I hope to be able to save some $$$ and go back in a few years and do some of those excursions. First of all, I have to get over my fear of small planes...

We were originally booked for an inside stateroom, and were thrilled to be able to upgrade to a balcony. We actually didn't sit outside too much, as the wind combined with the cool temperatures made it pretty chilly. It was nice to be able to sit inside and look out at the inside passage, however. I don't know if I would care as much in the Caribbean, but for Alaska it was great. Congrats on your penthouse. When you get back, please let me know how the Sun compares to your previous Carnival ship. We have friends who don't like Carnival, but I think I would be willing to try it. Their only CCL cruise was a 4 day Baja California, and I guess it really was a party ship!

shoreguy
June 25th, 2004, 02:25 PM
ute_fan

Thanks for giving so much back to the board. Not many do. You have learned the one real negitive of cruising - it is addictive - banks have been robbed :D

Your review is probably more valueable to the newbies then the reviews of the crusty old veterans. Expectations have not yet been set in stone.

Quick comparison of CCL Spirit and the Sun since I have been on both.

Spirit + (for some)
Bigger Ship (so what)
Covered Pool for Alaska (we never used it)
Larger Balcony rooms (but smaller balcony)
Much larger inside Buffet (tried not to eat there but good for the boys)

Spirit -
No freestyle -
limited alternate dinning
Decor - I missed the wood on NCL - replaced with copper paint everywhere
Size
Wait Staff - People are concerned freestyle effects service but I found the wait staff on the Sun much more professional. No thumbs in my glass. Could have been our staff only.
Medical Staff - long story
missed several dinners (late from shore)
Cold pizza (according to the boys cooked fresh but always served the old until it was gone)

By and large similar quality and I assume passenger mix in Alaska. I booked CCL to Alaska the first time because I thought we would have a better chance of a younger group for my then teenage sons. I had no major problems but given a choice one of the newer NCL ships with freestyle is my choice.

Millions more cruise CCL and love it!

ute_fan
June 25th, 2004, 04:11 PM
I did consider CCL to Alaska for that reason. We had a son (age 20) and daughter (age 18) with us. There were very few children, teens, or young adults on the cruise. They didn't meet up with anyone at all, but we're not big party people. I told them before we went that most of the passengers would be older, and their response was "so what?"

Luckily, they get along well together (usually) and seem to enjoy spending time with us. However, after going on the Sea and its freestyle dining, I was pretty sure that was the best choice for us. We don't like to dress up much, and our schedule is never set enough (even at home) to plan on eating at the same time every night.

I've discovered the other negative to cruising -- they're now saying they never want to travel any other way!!

shoreguy
June 25th, 2004, 06:22 PM
I could upload my sons pictures from the CCL Spirit to Webshots. I was incharge of video. I have space where I posted our CC meetings from the 10 day Dawn adventure in Feb.

tommui987
June 25th, 2004, 08:24 PM
We were on the Star last week (6/13/04-06/20/04) equipped with gloves, ski jackets, woolies etc.

The weather was sunny throughout and only required a sweater on deck while transversing Glacier Bay.

But better be prepared than unprepared. Check the weather.net before packing!

cpristash
June 25th, 2004, 10:11 PM
tommui....what excursions did you do while on your cruise to Alaska.....I am trying to gather as much info as possible...any nugget of knowledge you can pass along would be greatly appreciated!

cpristash
June 26th, 2004, 10:03 AM
bumpity bump bump!!!! I ned info! Please!!! Share your thoughts on excursions!

Sunshiplover
July 21st, 2004, 02:12 PM
Hi cpristash, my husband and I will be on this cruise too. We will celebrate my birthday July 28. We are leaving our 19 and 21-year old kids at home. This will be our second Sun cruise...Can't wait.

cpristash
July 21st, 2004, 05:11 PM
sunshiplover.....as I stated, we are celebrating our 25th,,,,with NO KIDS (16/21) they are upset, as they really wanted to go to ALaske (not to say that they are going to miss us!!!!)
WOW, it is really great to find someone else on the ship....where are you coming from...what room are you in? Do you have any excursions planned ! Am I a little excited or what???

travelling fools
July 22nd, 2004, 10:33 AM
As you disembark in Ketchikan there is a tourist booth that has many booths offering all kinds of excursions.They are cheaper and there is a good variety.
In Juneau we took the $5.00 [each way] shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier.It was the best as you could walk around by yourself and take as long as you want.Most buses come and go each half hour.Buses are there as you get off the ship.
In Wrangell we took a walk to the ancient stone carvings on the beach.Some people did not like the town but I thought it was a nice change from shops.A nice walk and back to the ship for swim and hot tub.In the opposite direction there wasa totem pole area.
Enjoy your trip!

cpristash
July 22nd, 2004, 04:08 PM
travelling fools...thanks so much for the info,,,,it is greatly appreciated! By hte way, what were the temperatures like when you were there...did you take everything from bathing suits to hats/mittens? Do I really need to take hats/mittens? Thanks!