This review is for the May 12th sailing out of Vancouver. A little about me, I am in my mid 20s and traveled with my girlfriend. This was my 22nd cruise, and her 4th. This was our 3rd cruise together. This was my 4th NCL cruise, and second time on Pearl. All and all, I can say this was one of the most memorable and best cruises yet!
We arrived in Vancouver 2 days prior to sailing. After a very long day of traveling across the country, we checked into our hotel (Hyatt Regency Vancouver) and explored the city. I would definitely recommend the Hyatt to anyone visiting Vancouver because it is modern, clean, and in a great location. Some of the highlights of our two nights in Vancouver include Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden (the guided tour was wonderful), biking around the city and Stanley Park, lunching at Granville Island, and dinner in Gastown. After two nights, we left for the pier Sunday morning at around 10:30am. If you sail out of Vancouver, be sure to check which pier you are leaving from - NCL leaves from the Balintyne pier, which is much further from downtown than the Canada place pier that most of the other lines leave from. I'm glad we checked before we left the hotel!
Embarkation was pretty much a breeze. We got the the pier at around 11 AM, and waited no longer than half an hour to get on board. I think our Latitudes priority helped because our line was easily four times shorter. This pier was a bit easier than leaving through other ports, such as Miami or Baltimore. However, the ship did not leave until around three hours later than our scheduled departure time.
We had booked an inside cabin (9113), and this cabin was much smaller than the inside cabins on our last cruise (the Celebrity Eclipse), probably about 2/3 the size! Though the size didn't bother me, I was bothered by the fact that it seemed our cabin steward Ryan had very hurriedly "cleaned" our cabin between sailings. I put cleaned in parenthesis because I am almost convinced he did *nothing* besides tidy up the sheets and change the towels between sailings: (1) We found pills, pins, and papers on the floor; (2) We found what seemed to be dirty sheets stuffed into the closet and shelves; (3) We found melted ice in the ice bucket; and (4) The toilet paper cover was broken and on the floor. Worst of all, after a long first day we came back to go to sleep past midnight and found hairs in our bed that were clearly not ours since we hadn't slept in the bed yet or even opened the covers, and rips and stains in the sheets. And the icing on the cake, somehow our door handle kept on jamming and we couldn't even leave the cabin (which is a HUGE safety hazard). Of course, we were very upset and we had a new cabin steward change the sheets, which took almost half an hour late at night. Definitely not how you want to start your first night of the cruise!
The good news, GSR Jatin Vyas followed up with us the next day as per my request, and was able to move us to an Ocean View on the 5th floor for the inconvenience. That cabin was wonderful, and a bit more spacious. Our cabin steward Edwin for 5010 did a great job!
DAYS AT SEA:
Days at sea on an Alaska inside passage cruise are, needless to say, very different than your typical Caribbean cruise. You can't expect to be lounging by the pool and getting a tan! The scenery is amazing, and if you are a photographer it is like a dream come true. Our first day and a half we were cruising the inside passage, and we were able to enjoy great views throughout. We spent the majority of our days at sea in the Mandara Spa (we paid the $120 each for the spa membership, which was well worth it!). The ship always seemed to be lively during the days at sea, and there were lots of planned activities if you are into that type of thing.
NCL's interior design is sandwiched somewhere between Carnival and Celebrity. It has the fun, vibrant design that you would find on Carnival, but also has some great artwork and classy interior spaces that you will find on Celebrity. In my opinion, its the perfect balance. We found the ship to be very clean and in good shape. Some of our favorite hangouts were the Bliss Ultra Lounge, the Spinnaker Lounge, the Great Outdoors, and the Crystal Atrium. The casino was on par with most other cruise ship casinos. In my opinion, the best place on the ship for sightseeing was the promenade deck, since you were closer to the water and covered from the rain.
Pablo, our cruise director, was low-key. His staff was entertaining and seemed to do a good job. Not the greatest cruise director, but not he worst. The definite highlight of the entertainment was Second City! We saw all 3 of their shows, and I felt that each of those cast members could easily be starring on a sketch comedy TV show - they were that good! The NCL Broadway style production show we saw was average. The comedian, Noodles Levenstein, was sub-par. As far as Musical Entertainment, Arvin and Emily were definitely the highlight! They played every night in the atrium, and are not to be missed! They were so popular it was actually quite difficult to get a seat. They probably could have filled up the entire stardust theatre!
Another highlight of the entertainment was the Pub Crawl. We decided to sign up for this and had a blast! For $25 you get 5 drinks at 5 different bars. The crawl concludes at the White Hot Party. It was a lot of fun and a great bonding experience! The cruise staff, Pippa and Luke, did a great job leading it.
Hands down, the Pearl's buffet was the best buffet of my 20+ cruises. The food was always hot, always tasty, and had plenty of different options each day. On the last day, the Bavarian buffet (the Exec chef was from Bavaria) at the Great Outdoors was arguably the best meal we had on our cruise! Please do not miss it!
We only ate at the main dining room once. The service was slow and the food was bland. We decided to not go back after that. The menus seemed to be filled with very typical and uninspired cuisine, perhaps to push guests to the specialty restaurants.
Moderno Churrascaria was our favorite of the specialty restaurants! The salad bar was very good, and the meat was even better! The pork ribs were actually the highlight in my opinion, but everything there was great, including the service.
We ate once for dinner at Lotus Garden and once at the Sushi Bar. Both were well worth the cover price and the food was good at both. The a la carte sushi was pretty much as good as you would find at most other sushi bars, but half the price.
We also tried Le Bistro. The food was good, but the service was nothing special. The dessert (chocolate napoleon) was the highlight. For whatever reason, I felt Le Bistro was much better on the NCL Dawn.
Juneau: We took the Sea Kayak Adventure tour and what we saw on this tour will stay in my memory forever. We were within 25 yards of multiple humpback whales, and we were within a paddle's reach of bald eagles. Even through the rain and cold weather, we had a great time and made some friends on this tour. I am so amazed at how many whales we saw on this tour, and to see them from a kayak on a cove near the Mendenhall glacier makes it that much more special (and slightly frightening). Afterwards, we went to an amazing bar called The Hanger in downtown Juneau, which was manned by a gentleman named Todd. We spent as much time as we possibly could there, chatting with locals such as Todd and cruise passengers alike. We tried a reindeer sausage corndog and had several great Alaskan brews that you probably can't find out of state. This day in Juneau was definitely one of the highlights!
Skagway: We did the afternoon Klondike Bicycle tour, which basically turned out to be a private tour: my girlfriend, two tour guides, and myself. I guess no one else was brave enough to bike 15+ miles downhill from the top of white pass mountain to downtown Skagway! It was a lot of fun and amazing sightseeing throughout. Afterwards we went to the Skagway Brewing Company for lunch and had some great food and drink. The spruce tip ale was quite good.
Glacier Bay: early in the morning we arrived into the bay. We saw the marjorie and grand pacific glaciers, and saw some calving. Being that close to the glacier was incredible, but for me the more memorable part will be the scenic sailing we did through an area that was filled with wildlife. From the deck of the ship we saw several Orca and Humpback whales, sea otters, and possibly a sea lion. It turned out to be a beautiful afternoon and it was amazing how calm the waters were - there wasn't a single wave in the bay except for the wake caused by the ship and the whales.
Ketchikan: we decided not to do a tour in Ketchikan. We arrived very early in the morning, and left in the early afternoon. It was raining very hard this day. We did some souvenir shopping at Creek Street, which was nice.
Victoria: this was a very beautiful city, and I really wish we could have more time here. We will definitely go back! We had dinner at a great Canadian/American farm-to-table small plates restaurant called Bon Bistro & Bar, and had some incredible local oysters. We explored around this little charming city and left with a big urge to come back.
Easy, quick, and efficient. We rolled our own bags off. Probably the easiest debarkation I've experienced.
-Spa pass ($120 gets you access to the hydrotherapy pool, exclusive spa room above the bridge, sauna, steam room, etc.)
-Food, especially in Garden Cafe
-Second City Improvisation group
-Good service from GSR Jatin Vyas, our cabin steward Edwin, and Moderno staff
-Experience with our first cabin
-About half of the employees seemed to not really care about customer service (especially Marco from the Bliss Ultra Lounge bowling desk, he needs to be re-trained)
-Food in the main dining room
-Weather in Juneau and Ketchikan
-Need more time in Victoria
Overall, this was an incredible cruise that we will remember forever. I was obsessively checking the weather before we left, worried that the rain and cold would ruin our vacation. Well, it rained nearly every day and was colder than I expected, but somehow this turned out to be one of the best vacations I've ever taken. I would gladly sail on NCL Pearl a third time, and will be back on NCL again for sure! Great job, NCL Pearl!