Great for Disabled, Food Allergy and Sensitive People
I am autistic, very sensitive to sound and other environmental conditions, with serious food allergies. The Pearl staff were very helpful boarding and throughout the cruise. The dining staff, particularly our Maitre D' Alex, went beyond our expectations to ensure that my food was safely prepared AND that I had a comfortable dining experience. He made sure the staff would seat us in the quietest area. The Pearl has a chef who dedicates himself to fulfilling special dietary orders which is outstanding. The food was delicious and I could dine with confidence.
Why would I give them so much praise? Well our last cruise was on the Brilliance (Royal Caribbean) and we had the exact opposite experience. By the time I left the Brilliance, my gums were bleeding, as were my intestines, because no care was taken in food preparation, despite assurances. As compensation, RCI offered us a discount on our next cruise with them but nothing could make up for the weeks of illness due to their More
Anyway, there were blind persons on board the NCL Pearl and others with significant disabilities all being cared for. I was so pleased to see the freedom NCL's services allowed disabled travelers.
The great thing about NCL was the availability of Officers and Staff. The phone extensions were broadcast on TV so if you had an issue, you could call them directly. That went a long way in help to reassure us that any issues would be handled. Fortunately, except for needed to speak with the Executive Chef about the food allergies, there was no need to contact anyone in charge - well except to compliment the staff.
Aside from these services, for those who are sound sensitive - this may be a difficult way to travel as very loud live music is nearly everywhere at night. I used hearing protection which helped a great deal. Depending on your particular sensitivity or issues, I still think the Pearl had more to offer than the other ships I've sailed with and recommend it. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We quickly got on a bus for Mendenhall Glacier for $16 each, round-trip - significantly less then on-board excursion costs. I was surprised to get a nice little tour of Juneau as our bus driver pointed out several sites of interest on our way to the National park. Mendenhall Glacier, though some distance from a viewing point, was amazingly beautiful. Next time we will chose to fly over and land on the glacier as we now know that it would be well worth the expense. The parks visitor's center is a bit small however the displays were informative and the short film was entertaining/recommended. They had sample pieces of the glacier there to compare against "freezer" ice. Glacier water is amazingly clear with an interesting crystalline structure. There are friendly rangers there to answer questions.
Charming! We arrived on a sunny day and didn't feel the need for an excursion as there were many sights to see throughout Ketchikan. Bald Eagles flew over the town as we stopped to view the many totem poles. The stores were surprisingly inexpensive and had greater variety of items than we found in Skagway or Juneau. Of all the inside passage towns, we enjoyed Ketchikan the most. We walked throughout the town and enjoyed the many streams and creeks. Too early in the season for salmon, we used our imaginations to see them using the ladders on their journey home. The town folk were friendly and we had a very enjoyable visit.
Skagway didn't offer us much but we didn't mind as we had reserved a car at Avis weeks before our cruise - Avis is the only commercial rental car agency in town - and set off for the Yukon. The mountains are majestic and Carcross (formerly Caribou Crossing) was very small but charming with moose antlers commonly used to decorate the exterior of homes. The visitor center is well stocked with maps, brochures and very large restrooms. They were polite and helpful.
We drove in a large triangle onto Hwy 8, then the Alaskan Hwy before setting back toward Skagway. The views were spectacular. Emerald Lake has well earned it's name with gorgeous light and dark green water. Although late May is usually too early to see much wildlife, we did see marmots and a bear near the road. We slowed to take the brown bears picture which it hardly seemed to notice. Two tour buses far behind us saw us and eventually stopped to see the bear too.
What we liked about renting a car was the freedom to stop and go as we pleased - the down side was dealing with a very rude assistant manager at Avis but we had no other recourse then to steel ourselves against her misbehavior and she, of course, knew it. Rental cars go quick there so plan ahead.