My husband and I live in the Pacific NW so leaving from Seattle is very easy for us. It's a 2.5 hour drive but we still came up a day early to enjoy some of what Seattle has to offer. This was our second cruise on NCL (and overall) and we did the same itinerary last year. We enjoyed it so much that during our cruise last year, we booked again for this year. Alaska has so much to see and do that we didn't find ourselves getting bored at all.
The hotel was nice and because of my status with Marriott we were upgraded to a suite, but it was close to the road so it was kind of noisy. We had a great view of the water though. We had dinner at the Fish Club which is normally a good choice, but my dinner was terrible. Hubby liked his though.
We arrived at the terminal at about 12:30 and stood in line to hand over our bags. It was a bit confusing because we were told different things by different people and the process was not the same as the year before. After about a 10 minute wait to hand over our bags we were on our way to check-in. Since we had an Owners Suite we went to that line which had no one in it. We immediately went to the counter, got our picture taken and met our Concierge, Carlos (more about him later). We were then taken through the line and escorted to our stateroom. The whole process took less than 20 minutes. We dropped off our carry-ons, admired the room, and went in search of lunch.
Stateroom: We were in 9506 (the Renoir Suite) and it was fantastic and HUGE. It had two rooms (living/dining and bedroom) which was separated by a sliding glass door. The bathroom was enormous with a walk-in closet, whirlpool tub, shower, and 2 sinks. We had two decks, one on the side and one at the front. We only used the front balcony while in port and during the glacier viewing as it was too windy other times. The side deck was fully covered and had a lounge chair and a table and 4 chairs for dining. The furniture in the living area was not all that comfortable but we also didn't sit around in the cabin that much either. It was definately worth the money though and we booked another AA cabin for our Mexico cruise.
This is of course very subjective, but I thought the food was excellent in all the restaurants that we went to.
The Market Cafe (buffet): It is what it is, a buffet. The food tasted fine but the menu didn't change very much from day to day. We only ate there for lunch and that was enough for me. Hubby loved that they had roasted chicken everyday and we both loved the mousse.
Cagneys: In a word WONDERFUL! Service was excellent and food prepared perfectly. We actually ended up going there twice during the trip. Definitely a treat!
Le Bistro: We both liked it but I think hubby liked Cagneys better. The food was prepared and presented well. I added a lobster tail to my dinner and it was slightly overcooked but still good. The chocolate fondue was fantastic and probably the highlight of the meal.
Endless Summer: We chose to dine here on the last night and we didn't have a high hopes based on our experience from the previous year. We didn't like the menu in the main dinning room and we didn't want a heavy steak dinner. We were pleasantly suprised though. It seemed that they had improved their menu and everything tasted really good.
Main Dining Room: We only ate dinner once in Versailles and it was good. We didn't like the hustle and bustle of it though and much preferred the more intimate environment of the speciality restaurants.
Juneau: Not our favorite port but we did get off the ship and walk around. We did very little shopping but did pick up a few items. We saw some of the sights but didn't do any tours/excursions. I'd heard the glacier tour was very popular and people really enjoyed it.
Skagway: This is probably our favorite city, but this year the weather was not very cooperative. Though we are used to the rain, it made the day a little less fun. We did quite a bit of shopping and some sightseeing but nothing through the ship. We are the type of people that enjoy doing our own thing. We picked up some really tasty smoked salmon at a little store off of Broadway. This is also where my two favorite jewelry stores are located...Silver Emporium and Broadway Jewelers. They both offer great service and really good deals. I'm not affiliated with either store, I just had really great experiences both years with each store.
Glacier Bay: Beautiful, wonderful, amazing. Should not be missed and the reason one should try to spring for a room with a balcony if at all possible.
Ketchikan: We weren't in port very long, but this is a fun shopping port. A ton of jewerly stores like the other ports but if you look around you'll also see some interesting local stores/galleries. We found one that had some very unique glass pieces and silver jewelry (both of which I love). We saw Creek Street and Dolly's House which is a fun little area of town
Victoria: We didn't get off the boat because we've been there before and there really isn't enough time to see much. I guess my one criticism of this itinerary is the arrival time into Victoria. It's so late that it's really difficult to see the city and appreciate it.
Entertainment: There is lots to do on the ship especially during sea days. We actually wore ourselve out the first day running from activity to activity but I guess that's a good thing. I wasn't as happy with the CD on this trip as last year though. The shows were great with the exception of the "Beyond Broadway" that they did in the Spinnaker. It was odd and not suited for the venue. Quite a few people agreed and left mid-show. The magician was great as was the comedian.
Service: This was the biggest change from last year and in a good way. Granted we were in an Owner's Suite so we had special attention from our Concierge and Butler, but all the crew members were encountered were friendly and very helpful. We had a few issues that came up and not at all something that NCL could be held responsible for and they were addressed quickly and completly. Communication was not nearly as difficult as last year as it seemed more of the crew spoke English very well.
Carlos was our concierge and he was wonderful. He checked in with us several times a day to make sure we were doing ok. It didn't matter what the request, he'd either handle it himself or find the person responsible for handling it. He made getting off the ship on port days very easy and hassle-free. He was the only concierge and we knew he was busy but it never showed. He always acted like we were the most important people to him.
Henry, our butler was also wonderful. We didn't use him as much as we thought we would but he was very attentive and quick to respond.
Misc: I was able to see 2 whales during the trip which was amazing. I recommend that if possible, get a balcony. Both my whale sightings were while I was on the balcony and were early in the morning... 6 - 7 am. We also saw various wildlife but depending on when you go, it may be easier or harder to spot any. We had binoculars so that helped quite a bit.
Disembarkation: A breeze! We were off the ship at 7:25 and in our car by 7:45. We did the express option so we carried our bags off the ship ourselves.
Overall: We had a wonderful time and we'll probably do Alaska again in a few years. We booked another cruise to Mexico for Jan '08 and I'm already looking forward to it. Freestyle is the only way to go for me and hubby.
Thanks for reading! Karen