Review of Panama Canal Cruise–14 Nights on NCL Sun October 14–28, 2016 (with photos)

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#1
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
Hello everyone. This is a review of our 14 night Panama Canal cruise on the NCL Sun. What an absolutely fantastic vacation that I will share with you through my words and photos!

Originally this was supposed to be an 11 night Mexican Riviera cruise but that was cancelled by NCL and we were given the option to take this 14 night cruise instead. The Panama Canal was a bucket list cruise for us which we did not envision taking for several more years or maybe not even until our retirement years as it is normally very hard for us to take this many consecutive days off work. But when this opportunity presented itself due to the cancellation of the Mexican Riviera cruise, getting price protection and 3 extra nights, this being my sabbatical year at my job so I had extra paid time off, and some reshuffling of our vacation schedules, we made it work. So here we go!

The itinerary was as follows:

Cruise started in Miami, FL
At sea
At sea
Cartagena, Colombia
Daylight Transit of Panama Canal
At sea
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Corinto, Nicaragua
Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala
At sea
Acapulco, Mexico
At sea
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
At sea
Cruise ended in San Diego, CA

About us, married couple in our late 40’s with no children. It had been 2.5 years since our last cruise (way too long) so we were more than ready for this trip! This was also our first cruise that was more than 7 days in length! Yay! We live near Seattle and left for Miami 2 days before the cruise.

Our journey started with a very, and I do mean very, early wake up call. 1:30 a.m. to be precise. Left the house by 2:30 to get to the airport by 4:00 for our 6:00 flight to Los Angeles. The Seattle to Los Angeles portion of the journey went smoothly. We were supposed to have a 2.5 hour layover in LA before flying to Miami. Well, long story short our LA to Miami flight ended up being cancelled due to mechanical issues so we ended up having to stay overnight in LA (airline paid for our hotel and meals). And we sat in the plane at the gate for 3 hours before they ended up cancelling it. A frustrating day! We were very stressed out at this point and were so happy that we had built in an extra travel day. Our flight the next morning from LA thankfully had no issues so we arrived in Miami on Thursday instead of Wednesday.
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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#2
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
Yay! We finally made it to Miami! Let’s get this vacation started! We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in the Brickell area in downtown Miami. This hotel is in close proximity to the cruise terminal, less than 2 miles away. It is also very close to a CVS drug store (1 block away) if you need any last minute items for your cruise! This is an older hotel but it is currently undergoing renovations and updating. We were given one of the newly remodeled rooms on the top floor (14th floor) with a balcony and a sliver view of the water. It was a very nice room! Spacious and clean.





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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#3
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
More hotel room photos









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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#4
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
Friday, October 14. It’s cruise embarkation day! Finally, after waiting 18 long months since original booking (in April 2015), 1 cruise cancellation later and 1 flight cancellation later, at long last it was time to start our cruise! The hotel offered a shuttle service to the cruise terminal for $5.00 per person which we took.

We were impressed with Miami’s cruise terminal. The whole process was quick and efficient with well marked lines. We were on the ship in less than an hour from when we arrived at the terminal. There were 4 ships total that day in Miami so thousands of people, but we had no issues or delays in the terminal.

My first photo of the NCL Sun after arriving at the terminal



We were in an aft mini suite on the coveted Deck 9, Cabin 9278. And having never been in a stateroom category above balcony and having never sailed on the aft before, this was going to be a real treat for us!

All I can say is it was truly worth every penny to pay the higher price to sail in an aft mini suite instead of our usual side balcony cabins. These highly sought after aft minis on the Sun (of which there are only 6) are apparently substantially larger than aft minis on all other ships in the NCL fleet. So what better ship than the Sun to experience our first aft mini suite!

Aft mini suite 9278





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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#5
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
More aft mini suite photos. The balcony size was awesome!





Bathroom and closet area







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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#6
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
There was also a chair and mirror/dressing area in the bathroom



First views from the balcony





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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#7
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
We were supposed to have an informal meet and mingle/sail away party with some of the members of our CC roll call at Champs Bar but the ship ended up leaving Miami 3 hours late and it was dark when we finally left Miami at nearly 8:00 p.m. so no sail away party for us. Some of us did meet there, socialized and waited for about 90 minutes but we all gave up around 6:30 not knowing we wouldn’t leave until 8:00 p.m.

Some photos of the 3 other ships that did leave when it was still daylight





Goodbye Norwegian Sky!



It's finally our turn to leave Miami. Goodbye USA, see you in 2 weeks!



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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#8
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
Saturday, October 15. Our first at sea day! Our official CC meet and mingle was held at Las Ramblas Tapas Bar and Restaurant from 11:00 to 12:00. Here is where we met many new friends! We had an excellent turnout, nearly 60 people. NCL provided beverages and pastries. The ships officers came to talk to us and some of us also participated in a gift exchange. Later that same day some of us participated in a cabin crawl which I organized. We had a lot of fun viewing each other’s cabins and also learned a lot about certain differences between cabin categories and even differences within the same cabin category.

We had the UBP and 6 night SDP promos on this cruise. At home I only drink white wine and DH only drinks beer. One of things I loved about having the UBP was trying several “new” drinks, things I would never drink at home. Fun, fun, fun! So on the first at sea day it was time to try some new drinks!

My favorite was the Daydreamer’s Daiquiri



I tried several other drinks throughout the cruise but many of them were just too sweet for me. So back to white wine and champagne I went for most of the trip!

I really enjoyed just relaxing and viewing the ocean and the different colors of the wake on our "at sea" days









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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#9
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
Random shots I took around the ship on our first at sea day











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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#11
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
Sunday, October 16. Another at sea day. We need football, and we need it now! We love our football and we need to watch our beloved Seahawks wherever and whenever we can. We headed up to Deck 11 to the Sports Bar. Mission fail. They were showing one game and it was not the Seahawks game (we were not expecting that it would be knowing in advance that they only show one game). But we were able to catch the scores to know that the Seahawks did beat Atlanta. Yay!

View from the Sports Bar while watching football. Life is good



More shots from around the ship on another at sea day. The observation lounge on Deck 12 forward was a great place for peace and quiet and nice views





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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#12
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
Monday, October 17. Cartagena, Colombia. Wow! What a beautiful city to sail into!

Entry into Cartagena. From Old World





to Modern






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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#13
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
Our excursion was the Old Cartagena Walking Tour which was roughly 3 hours long. We only had 6 hours in Cartagena so it was nice having an excursion that did not take up the entire time in port.

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas Fortress





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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#14
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
I failed to mention earlier that all of our excursions were booked through NCL. So if you are looking for independent excursion information this review will not contain any.

Beautiful old buildings, churches, and cobblestone streets in the old walled city. The walled city and fortress are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Such history is so fascinating to DH and I



At first glance I thought this was a statue, but it was a real person









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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#15
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
Glad I was not around back in the guillotine days










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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#16
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
After the excursion we enjoyed some time at a nice little zoo near the cruise ship terminal. Beautiful birds, iguanas and monkeys.











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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#17
Bremerton, WA
487 Posts
Joined Nov 2013
Time to say goodbye to Cartagena!



NCL Pearl in Cartagena says goodbye to us!







Going to stop here for tonight!

Up next: The World's Greatest Shortcut!
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Seeing the world, one port at a time.

Cruise History:
NCL Spirit - Mediterranean - May 2017
NCL Sun - Panama Canal (full transit) - October 2016
NCL Pearl - Alaska - May 2014
NCL Star - Western Caribbean - March 2013
RCI Splendour of the Seas - Mediterranean - June 2007
HAL Oosterdam - Alaska - September 2005


#18
California
366 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
Very excited to read this review. I. Booked on a 16 day Panama Canal cruise from Miami on 1/20. I loved the pool shot on the sun, it's not cluttered with those obstructive water slides

Sent from my SM-G930V using Forums mobile app
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Sailed!
--------
RCCL or now RCI - 80s and 90s too may to remember
NCL Spirit – 5 Night Alaska Repositioning 09/04
NCL POA – 7 Night Hawaii 04/11
NCL Sky - 4 Night Bahamas 04/12
NCL Sky - 3 Night Bahamas 09/13
NCL Star – 7 Night Mexican Riviera 12/13
NCL Jewell – 7 Night Alaska 6/28/14
NCL Star – 14 Night Transatlantic from Copenhagen 10/6/14
NCL Jade – 7 Night Eastern Mediterranean 6/27/15
NCL Escape – Inaugural 3 day Bahamas 11/11/15

Future!
--------
NCL Jewel - 16 Night Panama Canal 01/17
#19
Hunter Valley, Australia
175 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
Originally posted by SeahawkSiren
Hello everyone. This is a review of our 14 night Panama Canal cruise on the NCL Sun. What an absolutely fantastic vacation that I will share with you through my words and photos!

Originally this was supposed to be an 11 night Mexican Riviera cruise but that was cancelled by NCL and we were given the option to take this 14 night cruise instead.

The itinerary was as follows:

Cruise started in Miami, FL
At sea
At sea
Cartagena, Colombia
Daylight Transit of Panama Canal
At sea
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Corinto, Nicaragua
Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala
At sea
Acapulco, Mexico
At sea
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
At sea
Cruise ended in San Diego, CA
My DH would like to cruise the Panama Canal. After reading your review and looking at your photos it has gone up higher on my bucket list. Looking forward to seeing the rest of your reviews.
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NCL Jewel Australia/New Zealand 16 days (Jan 2018)

Cruises
NCL Sun South America 15 days (April 2017)
Celebrity Infinity 10 day Alaska (May 2011)
Carnival 7 day Mexican Riviera (April 2009)
NCL 4 day Bahamas (Jan 1991)

Land Tours
(June-Sept 2014) Absolute Africa The Absolute Safari 73 days Nairobi to Cape Town, 5 weeks Cape Town to Johannesburg
(April 2012) Western Australia (10,000 miles)
(May 2011) 28 day Salt Lake City return via Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana & Idaho
(Feb 2010) Europe Prague to Rome via Austria, Switzerland, Paris & London
(April 2009)14 day Las Vegas return via Arizona, Colorado, Nevada; Monterey & Big Sur
(April 2008) Outback Queensland & Northern Territory (8,500 miles)
(Feb 2007) Europe Milan to Rome via Switzerland, Paris & England
(Nov 2005) Cairns
(April 1998) Tasmania
#20
797 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
I'm enjoying your review and looking forward to seeing the rest. We did a Panama Canal cruise two years ago and your review is already bringing back great memories.
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2016 Norwegian Epic E. Caribbean http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showt...highlight=epic
2016 Norwegian Jade W. Caribbean http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showt...highlight=jade
2015 Norwegian Dawn W. Caribbean
2014 Norwegian Star Panama Canal full transit http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2130707
2011 Carnival Valor W. Caribbean
2009 MS Giselle Nile River Cruise
2005 RCI Rhapsody of the Seas W. Car bbean

Future cruises:
2017 NCL Star Panama Canal full transit
2018 NCL Jade 4 day Cozumel
2018 NCL Jade British Isles