We opted for a catagory SF Penthouse Suite on the Aft of the ship for the three of us - me, my wife and mother-in-law. Yes we have spent weeks together before - but not in this close of quarters. Embarkation was a breeze with the VIP treatment - we were about 15 min from curb to suite. Bags were delivered by 4:30 so we unpacked and changed for dinner in the Summer Palace.
I know that food is a very subjective subject but we found that between the Garden Cafe, Summer Palace, Cagney's (breakfest and lunch),and La Cucina we were able to find good food that well prepared and served with a smile. I loved the soups - Grilled Tomato, Cream of Mushroom, Cream of Asparagus, and Cream of Broccoli. I also liked their Cesar Salad. I had beef tenderloin and was served three large slices along with veggies and potatos with just the right amount of a rich beef gravy. Another night I had meatloaf that was encrusted with mashed potatos and was also served with a gravy. I know that meatloaf is one of those hard to make right dishes however the chef on the Pearl did it just right. We ate twice in LaCucina - chicken parmesan, cheese tortellini, and penne with meatballs - all were excellent.
Entertainment was good - the NCL dancers did a nice show called Encore where they did some numbers from six different Broadway Shows. There was also a fantastic Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons tribute group called Oh What A Night, as well as a Second City group, a stand up comic, and a comic juggler. There were also the usual bingo and Deal or No Deal games.
The Itinerary - let me start with the fact that Alaska is too big to see in one cruise - this was our third over a ten year span and not only has AK changed so has crusing there - including more ships and larger ships along with more tourist traps. In Juneau we did the Tracy Arm and Glacier Explorer - it took all of the time we had in Juneau - but was well worth it. We got to see some eagles, harbor seals and both north and south Sawyer Glaciers - even got to see them calve some large chunks of ice. The Jewel got almost as close as we did - however the Oosterdam made it only about half way up (not sure why as the ice was not that bad). The next and longest stop was Skagway where I went with Chilkoot tours on a combo train and bus trip to Carcross while the rest of my party took the afternoon train to the summit and did some shopping in the morning. My trip was great we ate lunch in Bennett and took a walking tour of the townsite - only one building remains - a church. Our guide has studied the area history extensively and was a fount of knowledge about the railroad and the towns. When we got to Carcross the van was there to haul five of us back to Skagway via Emerald Lake and the Carcross Desert. We managed to see a black bear on the hy and we spooked a caribou between Bennett and Carcross. My wife and mother-in-law saw several bears and mountain goats. The next stop was Glacier Bay where we spent most of the day visiting three different glaciers - we entered the lower end of the bay around 7:00 am and exited around 3:00 pm, we had two park rangers onboard who explained what we were seeing. They also gave a slide presentation about the geology of the bay and had a special junior ranger program for the kids. Next stop Ketchikan, here we simply walked around - watched the crab tour boat go out as well as the constant stream of float planes. We visited the shops on Creek Street, and did some shopping at Tongass Trading. In Victoria there was not much more for us to do there as we had not only seen it on two previous cruises, but also spent a weekend there a few years ago and had done the whale watching tours as well as Butchart Gardens and several different city tours, the IMAX theater and more.
Disembarktion - being in the suites our luggage was available anytime we wanted. My mother-in-law opted for the BAGS program so her bag met her at her home airport. We were told to go to the Stardust Theater where we had our own exit area just for the suites.
Misc notes - we had a CC meet and greet on Monday and recieved a bridge tour Tuesday - thank you Kay and Randy for setting this up. As suite guests we also got to be first in line for the Chocohalic Buffet which was excellently put on in the garden cafe.
The ship in general seems to be in good shape and is very capable of 24+ knots as we found out most of Fri and Sat on our run to Victoria. The crew was out and about doing scraping and painting - there were some minor rust spots but otherwise she is no worse for the wear and tear she has seen over the years - I understand she is heading to a scheduled drydock next year.