I've just returned from a 7 day cruise to Alaska aboard the Norwegian Pearl. It was a fantastic experience in every way. My party consisted of my mother and I. It was our fourth cruise, but first to Alaska and the first time on the Pearl.
Embarkation was a breeze. We took a taxi from our hotel near Pioneer Square in Seattle and were at the port in minutes, we arrived about 11:00am. We quickly dropped our bags and proceeded to the check-in lines. Everything was well organized and we completed the entire process by 11:20 or so. We then found some seats and waited for boarding to begin. It seemed like just a short wait and we were boarding the ship.
Once aboard, we began exploring. Within a few minutes, we were told that the staterooms were available to drop off our carry-on bags, although they were not ready for occupancy just yet. So, we dropped our bags and continued exploring. A short time later, the rooms were ready and we headed up. We were in a mini-suite towards the aft of the ship. The room was great. Plenty of room for the two of us and we loved the larger bathroom.
The ship was easy to navigate. The only thing we had to remember is that you could not get all the way from aft to forward on deck 6 because of the main dining room. Other than that, I don't think we got lost at all. :)
On Monday, we had the Cruise Critics meet and greet. The staff that joined us included the Hotel Director, the Executive Chef, the Food and Beverage Manager, the Bar Manager, the head of Group Services, and others I'm probably forgetting. It was fun to meet them all.
On Tuesday, we had the opportunity for a bridge tour arranged by the Group Services directer, Raquel Nunez. She was wonderful (she helped arrange the meet and greet for the CC members). Our tour was conducted by the 2nd Officer, Heriela Castillo. She was very friendly and informative and answered all of our questions. If anyone from NCL reads this, Raquel and Heriela deserve special kudos.
We did three excursions - whale watching in Juneau. We saw Humpback whales, sea lions, and eagles. Very enjoyable. In Skagway we did the White Pass train ride which provided incredible scenic views. And in Victoria, we also did whale watching but unfortunately did not see whales. The crew was great though and they really tried to make the trip worthwhile.
We ate at all of the specialty restaurants except Le Bistro. We also ate in the main dining room one night, the Summer Palace (smaller main dining room) for breakfast, the Blue Lagoon for one lunch, the sushi bar twice, and the Garden Cafe for miscellaneous meals. All of the food was very good. The highlight was Cagneys. The lowlight was probably the Blue Lagoon which was fine, but just average. We had no problems except for a bit of slow service one day in the sushi bar. It looked like they may have been understaffed that day.
Our room steward was very friendly and very efficient. The room was always made up and turned down promptly and we never had to wait to return to the room. All of the staff were very friendly. Everyone always had a smile to greet you and were very willing to assist with anything we needed.
We only saw one show - Encore! It is a mix of songs from different Broadway shows. This version had Moving Out, Swing, Wicked, Mama Mia, The Producers, and one I can't remember. The performers were very good and it was very enjoyable. We also played Bingo on day and while we didn't win, it was fun.
Saving the best for (almost) last. Glacier Bay is truly beyond words to describe. It's beautiful and breathtaking and awe-inspiring. We saw whales and seals/sea lions on the way in and then simply took in the beautiful sights. It was a bit cold on the balcony, but the views were well worth that small discomfort. Just be sure to pack lots of layers (and don't forget gloves, hats, earmuffs).
Disembarkation was truly painless. We carried our bags off and simply walked off the ship when we were ready. We had room service bring breakfast, had coffee on the deck, then took on last look around and headed out. We were off the ship in 5 minutes or less. Not that we wanted to be off the ship at all. As we left, several crew members serenaded the guests off the ship. That was a nice touch.
I had had reservations about an Alaska cruise before this trip. I was not thrilled about going to chilly weather and I wasn't sure how much there would be to do if you couldn't hang out by the pool. I'm very glad to see that I was wrong. The scenery is well worth any cool weather and, except for Glacier Bay, it was not as cold as I expected. We found more than enough things to keep us occupied, even if it was just hanging out in the room and watching the views of the Inside Passage. Our next trip is to the Caribbean, but I'll go back to Alaska on the Pearl if I get the chance.