Almost a year ago, my husband and I booked this Panama Canal Cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line. Our travel agent was helpful, answering questions and getting things booked for us. We were very excited to be going on this ‘trip of a lifetime’ as advertised by NCL – 15 days aboard a beautiful ship while getting to see the Panama Canal!
We had a nice cabin – a rear facing balcony – perfect for going through the canal. Our steward was excellent! Overall, we found the staff to be friendly and helpful.
The food was pretty good – after 15 days the variety seemed to be lacking a little, but overall the food was fine. We ate mostly in the main dining rooms for dinner, and on the 11th deck for breakfast and lunches.
The Panama Canal is impressive, and if you are at all interested in seeing it, do!
The ports of call were interesting, and the tours we booked through NCL were ok (even though you pay more for booking with them rather than booking private tours).
The bad and the ugly:
At the beginning of the cruise, we found out there would be some work being done on the ship via a letter in our cabin. Oh well we were sure there would still be so much to enjoy! How bad could it be? We weren’t going to let that bother us. We thought the closed off upper deck would be open soon. How wrong we were!
A couple days in, we were looking at the Cruise Next program, and excitedly thinking of future cruises with thoughts of travelling with family as a large group. What fun we could have!
It soon became apparent that it was not just a small amount of work, but their ‘enhancements’ meant some venues were closed for the entire cruise. A disappointment as we had been looking forward to all the ship had to offer. Champs Bar and the Las Ramblas Tapas Bar & Restaurant were closed the entire cruise. The 12th deck was undergoing extensive refinishing, as was the promenade deck 6 – meaning different large portions of these were closed throughout the cruise. Often doors to the outer decks were blocked off and/or locked – how would this play out in an emergency? The open portions of the decks were also very crowded, as so much space was closed off. Even in the open areas, it was often so noisy from grinders, sanders and other equipment that you couldn’t be there. There was also dust, particulate, fumes, and who knows what else was on the decks and circulating in the air.
A few days in, this all became very problematic – far beyond just an inconvenience- as we were in a full-on construction zone! Health issues were occurring as a result of fumes/chemicals/particulate on the ship! I never dreamed I would spend so much of our trip with varying degrees of symptoms including sore, itchy, red, puffy, and runny eyes as well as a runny nose and hoarse throat as a result of their ongoing renovations.
Being on shore offered some relief! But then symptoms soon returned after we were back on the ship. There was not much escaping it, and you never knew where it would be the worst.
Many times, I found myself running back to the cabin to lay down with a cold cloth over my eyes. Have you ever been near tear gas? That’s what it felt like at times – the same symptoms and severity for me. The construction workers were in masks and protective suits – the products they were using were toxic and dangerous. Yet here they were, using them in the proximity of the passengers and crew.
Take a walk around the promenade deck? Nope, parts were always blocked off and at times the fumes would irritate my eyes so badly I had to leave. Hang out by the pool? Dust, fumes, and noise often made it impossible. Areas indoors were also often affected – perhaps all going through the HVAC system?!
It is shameful that the company felt it was ok to do this work with passengers and staff on board. The noise, dust/particulate, chemical smells and fumes, and closures of large part of the ship was completely unacceptable. This was in no way the vacation as advertised that we booked. What did NCL offer as compensation? 25% of our cruise fare paid toward a future cruise before March 31, 2019. They say the Sun is undergoing enhancements to better serve our guests and thank us for our patience and understanding. This is an insult – essentially just a marketing ploy. Current guests be damned.
A trip of a lifetime? Their disregard for passenger experiences, health, and safety is unconscionable.
I know I am not the only one upset about their cruise aboard the Sun.
As for value for the money? We paid thousands to be on a ship actively being renovated! If this had not been the case, the value would have been ok. As it was, we feel ripped off by NCL.
Update: NCL has upped their cruise credit. Many feel this is not good enough.