BACKGROUND: First time cruise for us. Picked a good one, Alaska 7 day with side excursions. I'll try to keep this short and to the point.
EMBARK: Most reviews I read said about 1hr to go through check in. Ours was less than 15min. Went very smooth.
Ship (Pearl): The ship was very nice, clean and well organized. The staff was great,helpful and eager to please. Some were hard to understand (language barrier), so depending on your urgency sometimes it was better to pretend you understood and then go ask someone else. At no time was in an inconvenience tho.
Ship Activities: They had a modest amount to choose from, however a lot of them were not free. Some offer good prizes with money or even cruises, but if you don't have terrific luck (like most)you just end up spending more money. They had the usual free activities that you can check on-line at ncl.com.
Entertainment: Everynight had some thing going on. Theater shows were good (even though the music(60's-70's broadway)isn't my normal pleasure. Dancers were great and the comedian had us in tears from laughing.
Room: We started out with a inside stateroom and eventually ended up with a mini suite. The upgrades were reasonable and got cheaper the close to cruise time. Our room was on the port side and to the front of the ship on deck 11. Room was fantastic. It was quiet and peaceful with no noise from above. The balcony is certainly the best way to go, especially on a Alaska cruise. We had friends on the same ship, same floor but on the opposite side and they also had the mini-suite. It worked out so great that we could flow from on side of the ship to the other depending who was seeing the best sights. Of course there is always the top viewing decks but when we went up top to view a glacier, you were in a crowd of people (probably the ones without a balcony)and you couldn't get close to the outside for good pictures. We just ran back down to our rooms and got the best views and pictures right from the balcony. The plus was when the ship turns to have the starboard side face the glacier we went to our friends room to view from their balcony.
SIDE EXCURSIONS: We spent a lot of time before our cruise to see what side trips were available and the reviews of them. I would strongly recommend that.
We did the Helicopter and walk on the glacier in Juneau. It was phenomenal. Expensive but worth every penny. Picture can't capture what you experience by being there. If you can afford the trip don't pass it up. The trolley ride that was offered looked like a waste of money, so glad we didn't spend money on that.
We did the Zip line, it was a lot of fun and my wife's favorite (Personally the helicopter was mine). The town was beautiful, we just didn't have enough time to spend there.
We did the kart expedition. Karts were like dune buggys. Also a lot of fun, even though I got scolded for horseplay. The people in the front were on a Sunday drive so I would really slow down to allow the group in front to get ahead and then I'd floor it to catch back up. It was worth the scolding. I'm not sure it would of been as much fun going slow.
Victoria B.C.: Very beautiful place and beautiful people. We did not book ahead and took the pedi-cab to see the town. It was sooo much fun and way cheaper than other tours that were offered ahead.
DINING: We did not dine in any places that you had to pay extra. The buffet and other included restaurants were just fine in our opinion. I thought the food was great. We figured you pay enough already for the cruise why pay what you don't have to.
For our first cruise it was great. The only real disappointing thing was the alcohol cost. They don't just make money on alcohol, they make a TON of money. We were primarily beer drinkers and the buy 5 get one free deal is $34.00, so if you plan on having a few expect to pay. Our friend got a mixed drink with a double and it was $15.00! Our group isn't big drinkers, but we enjoy kicking back and having a few.
Hot tubs looked inviting, but we seen several groups (possibly India) that stripped down into their underwear (must of forgot their swimwear) and they looked like they had fur coats--Gross!! It was enough for us to stay out of them. A bald man can go in the tub and come out with a hair piece!! Sorry for the sick humor, but it did gross us out.