This was my 5th cruise (4th on NCL) and I thought it would be nice to try something other than a tropical cruise. I went on this cruise with a friend. She seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. We enjoyed every bit of the Alaska scenery.
We ate at Tsar's Palace most nights for dinner. We both thought the food was very good. In fact, I thought the food was better than other NCL cruises I have been on. We went to the Garden Buffet every day for breakfast and lunch. I had read in reviews before I went on the cruise that it was almost impossible to find a seat in the Garden Buffet. Although it was very crowded we always found somewhere to sit. We often ate in the outside area in the very back of the ship, just past the indoor portion, on the days that weren't too chilly. The only glitch was when we ate lunch one day at the Blue Lagoon. We both thought the food was not good there. The only up-charge restaurant we ate at was Teppenayaki. I love eating there on all the NCL ships. The food is excellent and it's fun to watch the chef's cook the food on the hibachi grill.
The biggest thing I had wondered before leaving was how to pack for an Alaskan cruise. I had read on cruise boards to pack for all types of weather and wear layers. I would say that is spot on. It was very warm when we left Seattle and on the last day in Victoria. All of the ports in Alaska were cool; especially Skagway. It's the farthest north port.
We did not pay for any excursions through the ship. Every port has kiosk areas after you get off the ship that will take you on the same excursions and usually for less. We just walked around Kitchikan. We knew we wanted to save excursion money for later ports. The shopping area was very quaint and enjoyable to walk around. There is an area where a river runs by the shops. The pictures I got of that area look postcard like.
The next port was Juneau. We payed to go up the tram and hiked around the mountain. We both thoroughly enjoyed the hiking. The only downside to that day was that it was so foggy, we couldn't see much. Having a good pair of shoes for hiking is a plus if you decide to do that.
After we left Juneau, we cruised to Sawyer Glacier. All I can say about that is....WOW! The mountains surround the ship once you enter the passage. One cool thing was that they opened the bow of the ship while cruising towards the glacier. That was a pleasant surprise to me. The blue ice in the water was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Once you get to the glacier, the ship stops and rotates around so you can see from all angles. One thing worth mentioning is that is the coldest day. According to the captains log channel in the room, it was 45 degrees outside. But it was also very foggy and damp, so it felt even colder.
The last Alaskan port was Skagway. We both loved Skagway. We walked into town and signed up to go to the Yukon Suspension Bridge. This was a highlight in the whole Alaskan cruise experience. It was so beautiful. It is on the Canada side so passports are required. We were told most of the excursions from Skagway are in Canada. The walk around town in Skagway is very enjoyable too. I got some great pictures from all over Skagway. The most popular excursion people take from there is the railway excursion. That cost more money, which is part of the reason we picked the excursion we did. We were not sorry in the least.
The final port in the cruise was in Victoria, Canada. One thing I wish I would have known ahead of time is that it is a 30 min walk into town from the cruise port. There is not any free shuttle service provided. We did not have any cash on hand and did not want to use the plug in ATM machine they had at the port, so we walked. It wasn't bad, I just wish I had known. Victoria is more of a city. They don't seem to rely on the cruise industry like the rest of the ports. That was my impression anyway. In hind-site, I wish we would have signed up for an excursion ahead of time. By the time we made our way to the tourist area to sign up for activities, there weren't any available at that time. They said there were later that night, but we had to be on board before those tours were over. So that was a missed opportunity for us. Even though Victoria is a very pretty town, we found ourselves more or less just wandering around. Pre-planning is definitely recommended for Victoria.
We enjoyed all the entertainment shows we went to. The best show was Le Cirque Bijou. The young married couple that do the acrobatic acts are fascinating to watch. They are very good. They do two shows during the cruise. I would definitely recommend watching them if you enjoy that sort of entertainment.
We also went to watch the magician. He makes a couple of crude jokes that are intended to go over the kids heads. He even jokes about the fact if your kids got that one...shame on the parents. With that aside, the show itself was fun to watch. He mostly does card tricks. That may sound mundane, but he does leave you wondering...."how did he do that?"
We always looked at the Freestyle Daily to see what was going on when we weren't at port. We even took hip hop lessons one day. That was a blast, and I can't dance to save my life. We also enjoyed the sock hop and the white hot party in the Spinniker Lounge. We had a lot of fun at both of those events.
The staff was extremely friendly everywhere on board. They really do want to make sure you are happy. I honestly don't understand why someone would think they were not pleasant and friendly. Not once did we encounter a rude crew member.
The last sea day on Thursday was very rocky. We were both jarred awake at about 6:30 am by the rocking of the boat. I was feeling a bit queasy and took some Bonine for sea sickness. That really helped me a lot. I had asked the waiter at dinner that evening if that was normal for the Thursday sea day. He said it was. So again, be prepared for that. It wasn't the worst rocking I have felt on a cruise, but it definitely wasn't smooth.
Many people have mentioned about the constant push for selling bingo tickets or other things that cost you money. That is true. I just didn't pay any attention to it or let it get to me. Just because they push, doesn't mean you need to buy.
Overall, the cruise is what you make of it. I did not find what the negative reviews said to be true for myself. I think my friend would say the same. There's always going to be something that isn't just right, but if you focus on the positive, you can come away with a happy smile on your face and wonderful memories.