"Good grief...not a cruise!" I thought. I knew my wife had Alaska on her "bucket list". Then a friend talked about planning a cruise to Alaska.
I'd never been on a cruise. Given that I got seasick on the car ferry between Crete and Athens on the smooth-as-glass Mediterranean Sea, I did not embrace the idea of a cruise. I also am not a fan of "mandatory fun" and dress-up.
Embracing the carpe diem philosophy, I agreed to go. My wife dove into making the arrangements and before I knew it we were two weeks away from flying to Seattle from Tampa.
As you can imagine, the air travel was the worst part. TSA nonsense (couldn't find a bone in a butcher shop...), decent seats requiring even more money, cranky airline employees, bags lost on return. But that's not the focus of this review.
Transfer from Sea-Tac to channelside was fine. Driver was cranky about our mobility scooter needing to be stored underneath. Embarkation was expedited by considerate employees herding us toward the VIP line upon seeing the scooter.Then before you knew it, we were aboard the Norwegian Pearl. We made our way to the Summer Palace restaurant for a little bite since we'd been flying for hours. They tried to herd us to "our" table but I insisted we sit near the large windows since the place was nearly empty. Service was very slow, food was fair and portions were tiny. We never went back.
Our mini-suite was nice. The fridge was not stocked ala mini-bar style which was just fine with us. We were never asked if we wanted it stocked. We didn't see our steward until about two days before the end of the cruise. He did an adequate job of keeping the place nice, complying with the various door signs we displayed. But he was not entertaining in the way I'd heard stewards generally are. Not a big deal. The biggest annoyance was that he did not restock the coffee supplies. We started to use room service to overcome that gap.
The ship was outstanding. My RN wife made me get the scopolamine patch and I had not one minute of discomfort even during the day we all walked like we were drunk. That was only until we got into the Inner Passage and its protected water.
We chose to eat in the Garden Cafe. The food there was terrific in both quality and variety. The biggest challenge was finding a table but even that led us to discover the eating area outside on the fantail. The weather in late June was warm enough to eat out there and we enjoyed the views.
Port calls at Juneau (Mendenhall Glacier was breathtaking), Skagway (don't miss the White Pass Rail trip!), Ketchikan (just roamed the village) and Victoria (could have stayed on the boat...). Hours spent in Glacier Bay watching for glacier calving were super! Park rangers narrating for a while made for better understanding.
The entertainment was better than I expected. Even the crew talent show exceeded expectations.
We didn't frequent the casino. We did attend the Q&A with the officers and that was enlightening.
Gripes? Trying to squeeze even more money out of you. I don't even mind their fixation on sky-high booze prices. That might well preclude some people from becoming stupid. "Premium" restaurants? Didn't we already pay for food? And while I would have liked the "Behind the scenes" tour, I wasn't about to pay $75 for it. But my biggest grip was Internet prices! 75 cents a minute?? Free Internet would likely yield thousands of dollars of free advertising as users would populate their Facebook page with a flood of posts documenting their good time! Someone should rethink that strategy.
The only extra cost I thought worthwhile was the "Bags" program. Pay $20 each, put your bags outside your door the night before docking, and the next time you see them will be at your baggage claim at your final destination. Well, we would have if they had not missed our connecting flight. To AA's credit, they did deliver them to our house the next day without a lot of drama.
Debarkation was not too bad. Fill out a customs form and show your passport. I suppose they considered you visited British Columbia (the Victoria stop) even if you didn't get off the ship.
All in all a great trip! The hygiene on the boat was beyond reproach. Hand sanitizers all over and the "washee, washee, happy, happy!" sanitizer sniper at the entrance to the Garden Cafe gave us great peace of mind.