Sailed on the Pearl from 9/2 - 9/9. Overall, I had the time of my life - Alaska is so beautiful, even more than I had imagined. Let's start from the beginning ...
Arrived in Seattle late afternoon the day before the cruise. I was with my husband, 25 year old son and two of his friends. We stayed at the Doubletree Guest Suites Southcenter which offered a free shuttle from the airport. The hotel was clean and served the purpose. We had dinner at the Southcenter Mall and did some early souvenir shopping as my older son requested a Mariners tee shirt. It was a very nice mall and a 5 minute walk from the hotel. Took a car service that charged $70 for all 5 of us to Pier 66 in the morning.
We dropped our luggage off at around 10:30 and hopped on the elevator right at the Pier up to Pikes Market. Initially, I was going to skip the market and get right on the ship - I'm so glad I changed my mind. You have plenty of time to embark after a walk around the market. I bought the most beautiful bouquet of flowers for $5 for our cabin. There are tons of flower vendors throughout the market. There's a place called Pears Deli close to the flower vendors that sells cardboard vases in all different colors for any size bouquet. It worked out great and the flowers looked beautiful in the cabin. OK, now that I've put all the men to sleep, I'll continue ... embarkation was a breeze - took about 1/2 hour and we were on the ship.
We booked 2 mini suites. Now of course by now you know that they're not giant suites, but I appreciated every extra square foot, whether it was on the balcony or in the bathroom. I have no complaints about the room. NCL used the space wisely and there were hooks, shelves and cubbies everywhere. I found the cabin to be much bigger and nicer than balcony cabins I have had in the past on Carnival and RCI. I had an full overhang on my balcony which I didn't mind at all. Our cabin steward was great - he serviced the cabin twice a day and we always had fresh towels and clean linens. I found the beds to be super comfortable and slept well. I was in cabin #11540, mid ship, a little more forward than dead center.
Pearl is a pretty ship - not too loud in design but still very colorful. Plenty of space for everyone - I never felt like it was too crowded. We enjoyed cocktails at several of the bars - they have quite a drink selection, but I stuck to my favorite - expresso martinis. My husband enjoyed the Alaska Amber all week. I thought the Pearl had a nice little shopping area with a duty free shop where you could buy liquor, cigarettes, jewelry, and perfume among other things. If you buy liquor on the ship, you can not have it right away - you have to wait until you disembark. They also had a gift shop with a very nice selection of clothing and souvenir items. The bowling alley is in a great space with a bar that has several TV's.
I thought the casino was a good size for a ship. It had lots of good slot machines that I was familiar with so I was happy. I saw people hit for $4000 twice and few $2000 payouts - not bad!! There's a bar in the casino with video poker machines that you can play while you have a drink. Blackjack was played with a continuous deck - not my favorite, but my husband enjoyed himself. The casino staff on the Pearl couldn't have been nicer.
Ok, here's where it gets a little ugly. The first night we had dinner at the Summer Palace which is one of the main dining rooms. The food was mediocre at best. I didn't expect gourmet, but I did expect better. We also dined at La Cucina, Cagney's and the Japanese Teppanyaki Restaurant - Japanese was the best, by far. Cagney's was pretty, but the quality of their steak was just so-so. I had the filet and my husband had the sirloin and they were both nothing to write home about. I will say that I had the best dessert in Cagney's - raspberry creme brulee - very very good! La Cucina was a pleasant surprise. I wasn't expecting much but everyone enjoyed their meal, except me. I started with a delicious salad (the cucina salad) but then ordered the pork which was their signature dish. I found it to be overly salty and tough. The hibachi restaurant had the best, tastiest food - even the steak was delicious.
Exceptionally nice staff - all of them that I encountered
Juneau - went whale watching with Harv and Marv's. We had Liz as our tour operator and she was great. We saw some Orcas at a distance and a bit further away saw a mom and a baby whale who put on quite a show - lots of tail flapping! That's all we had time for in Juneau as the bus driver drops you at Mendenhall Glacier after the whale watch. We wanted to go to Tracy's Crab Shack but didn't have the time.
Loved this little town! I purposely made no excursion plans so that we could just take our time and have a casual day of walking around the town and shopping. It's not a big town, but it had some great stores and a couple of bars/restaurants where everyone was very friendly. Went to Skagway Fish Co. for lunch and the king crab that we wanted so badly at Tracy's. It was good, but not great. Legs were on the thin side and it was $40 for 1 lb (consisted of 2 legs).
Beautiful day - spent some time on the balcony in the morning and then went up to Deck 12 to the Great Outdoors where the boat got amazingly close to the glacier. There were bartenders walking around the deck with rolling carts making specialty hot coffee drinks - does life get any better?
We did the Misty Fjord Flight Plane Tour with Island Wings - I thought I would be a basket case, but Michelle is such an excellent pilot, that I immediately felt safe and knew I was in good hands. She was full of information and landed on a beautiful lake where we could get out and stretch our legs. The scenery was awesome and she took some great photos of our family. I would highly recommend her to anyone.
I'm so glad I didn't skip this port. Victoria is such a pretty town. Shuttle bus cost is $8.00 round trip from the docks. It takes about 10 minutes to get into town. We did some shopping and stopped at a pub to get a drink and a snack. Very beautiful - don't miss it. Take note: Make sure you get in line for the shuttle bus back to the port way a head of the time you're supposed to be back on the ship. The lines are blocks long for the return trip.
Couldn't have been easier. Walked right off the ship at about 9:30. No lines- no problems.
In summary, I feel fortunate that I got to see Alaska and to cruise on such a great ship. I hope to get the opportunity to do it again and if I do, it will definitely be on the Pearl.