We were a group of six traveling to Alaska for the first time. My parents are very experienced cruises with well over 12 cruises, my husband and myself were at 6 cruises (7 after this cruise) and my sister and brother in law were at 2 cruises (3 after this cruise).
We came from all over the country. We are from Oak Harbor Washington so the commute was very easy for us. We actually have a shuttle service on the island that drops you off at the pier. My parents are from Miami, FL. However, they flew in a few days early to hang out with us, so they took the shuttle as well. My sister and brother in law are from Yuma, Arizona and also flew in a few days early so they could hang out in Seattle and stayed at the Moore Hotel. We all met up on Sunday morning at the pier.
Embarkation was very smooth. One of the fastest and easiest ones we have ever done. We were at the pier around 11:15 and all checked in by 11:30. We were on board by 11:45. We had a great and quiet lunch at Summer Palace. I do not think almost anyone knew it was open. The buffet was probably a mad house.
Rooms were ready around 12:30. My sister and I had inside rooms at 9163 and 9157. They were a little smaller than other cruise lines, but had plenty of storage. The shower was nicer than most too. If you are tall though the toilet may be difficult to use. You have to be slightly turned; if you are not your knees hit the wall. The beds were very comfortable. My parents had a mini-suite 11114 and it was very spacious (compared to our inside cabins). It had a sitting area and a much larger bathroom with a separated toilet area and a tub. The 6 of us were every comfortable being in there. We were all in there most of Glacier Bay. The cabin and the balcony did not feel cramped.
The location in the AFT of the boat was great. We were above Summer Palace (where we ate most of our meals at)and right under the buffet area. Getting to food could not be any easier! We were also above the disco/photo area and close tot he Crystal Atrium where the Blue Lagoon was located. Everything was very close. It was a little bit of a walk to the Stardust Theater, Spinnaker Lounge, and fitness room (which are in the front of the ship). We only went for evening shows or a couple activities here and there so no big deal. Also, it was a little bit of a warm up before working out. =)
The staff was very friendly. Julie, the cruise director, was very nice and seemed to always be around. She also had an awesome wardrobe! I loved all her outfits.
Them "Sail Away Party" was a blast! I was given the first free drink of the cruise! WooHoo!
We were a little disappointed with the selection of activities when we were not in port. On other cruise lines there are usually multiple things happening at a given time so you had a variety of things to choose from. This was not the case. Not as many active activities were offered. One disappointment that stood out was the towel folding demonstration. On Carnival, you physically get a towel and learn how to fold them. There is staff going around to help you. On this cruise, you just watched people doing it. It was a bit boring. there were a lot of videos or talks ... I am not sure if this was just because of the Alaskan cruiser older demographic since this was out first NCL cruise.
The evening shows were pretty good. We went to most of them. My mom really enjoyed the "Oh What a Night" and we all loved the magician/comedian Jeff. The "Encore" show was our least favorite. The singers were not the best and half of my group fell asleep. The best part of "Encore" was that at the end the cruise staff all come up on stage. That was neat. The "Not so Newly Wed " Show was very cute, but as a warning seating was very limited. We did see and go to a few more activities here and there. We did take advantage of the game room where they have board games and cards available. It was very nice!
We all enjoyed the food very much! Of course, there are a few items here and there that were not the best (but that happened very rarely). We ate most of our dinners in the Summer Palace (a few lunches and breakfasts there too). We had some awesome dishes there and some okay ones. You can always find something you will like and will not go hungry! Desserts were yummy. There was a good variety of options. The buffet had some great options too. I loved the yogurt station in the mornings and the crepe stations for dessert at night. One day they had a German themed buffet at the Great Outdoors ... that was fun and delicious! The Chocolate Buffet was CHAOS!!!! People were eating the displays! It was like people were starving (even thought hey were eating all week). I was disappointed that they do not do as many pretty displays and ice/fruit sculptures as other cruise lines or as I was told NCL once did. Maybe it is because the savages people become! There were some chocolate covered bananas and fruit that were good, but not worth the fight. We also ate many late nights at the Blue Lagoon (my husband is a bottomless pit!). The wonton soup and grilled cheese were my favorites. =)We never had to wait for seating even during prime time for eating. We were a group of 6. We did notice unlike many cruise lines there were not a lot of large tables that seat more than 6.
We were very lucky! The break down: Day 1 and 2 partly sunny, drizzled a little in Juneau (however, the open water activities were mostly cancelled due to winds and waves), Skagway was a little foggy as we were heading up to the Yukon and then sunny, Glacier Bay was overcast and beautiful (it was so blue and so much wildlife). Ketchikan was partly sunny and maybe drizzled for a few minutes (we were very lucky!!!), and Victoria was probably the worst of all the ports because of the wind (it was very windy and chilly but no rain).
We did the Glacier Extended Trek through NCL and it was amazing! We ice climbed, drank glacier water, and trekked for hours. It was worth the money!
My sister and brother in law did the Glacier Lake Kayaking (independent tour) and said it was amazing. They saw eagles eating their kill on an iceberg right next to them!
My parents were scheduled to do the Tracy Fjord Explorer and after an hour and half out in the water they turned around and cancelled it. They were very disappointed with all the time that was wasted. When they came back there were no other excursions they could hop on. They did not know about the buses to the glacier park. =(
We (all 6) did a private 7 hour tour with Kolndike Kevin (Becky form Beyond Skagway Tours son. It was awesome! We for so many great photo ops, pulle doff to see bears, went to see mushing dog puppies, waterfalls, meet totem carvers, Emerald Lake, Alaska/Yukon Signs, Carcross Desert, etc. We saw so much! It was wonderful to do it together and create a private/customized tour to our liking. The town was very cute and we did most of our shopping here.
Perfect glacier viewing weather. We crashed my parent's mini suite cabin and hung out on the balcony all day. We saw so much wildlife: bears, orcas, humpbacks, minkes, otters, sea lions, puffins, etc! The views of all the ice and glaciers were breathtaking. We even heard ice thunder and saw claving. My stepdad's favorite day.
We went snorkeling through NCL. We had sun!!!! It was a very neat experience. It was not as cold as I thought. The wetsuit did what it needed to do. The initial part was a little chilly. We saw and got to hold a lot of sea creatures. The Kelp was huge! Lots of moon jellies which are harmless in the water. You have to watch out the lion's jellyfish which are the only ones that could sting you. You only have a very small area that could get stung and it is not very common. However, I was the lucky one of the group and was stung! It did hurt and the staff was very attentive. After a couple hour the pain dulled out completely. It did not ruin my experience though (it happened at the end). I would still recommend this trip!
Parents- the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman Tour. They loved it! The highlight of their trip. They got to see over 50 eagles feeding right next to them, an octopus, and many different kind of crabs (they got to hold them). This made up for their Juneau excursion experience.
Sister- They did an independent kayak trip through Orca Cove and said they really enjoyed it.
We ate dinner on the ship before heading out since it was a very short port time. We took a taxi ($8.50 for all of us) to the downtown area and walked around and saw the sights. It was very windy and a bit chilly. We ended up hanging out at the Stickey Wicket and saw some soccer games and had some snack and drinks. It was enjoyable. We took an overpriced taxi cab ride back to the ship. Please make sure you ask if they are the flat rate taxis before getting in. Lesson learned. LOL.
We were staying at the Edgewater (right next to the dock) for two nights after the cruise so we took our time and got off the ship and enjoyed every last minute we could.
We thought the cruise was amazing! Do not have any reservations about going to Alaska aboard the Pearl!