Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by dandl1986: a string of Pearl's positives and not so greats
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a string of Pearl's positives and not so greats
First of all, I love to cruise! Secondly, this was my first cruise to Alaska, and no matter what the cruise line, if you have a chance to go to Alaska DO IT! Thirdly, this was the first time I have traveled with a person in a wheelchair so maybe all cruise lines are bad and I just don't know it, but the Pearl just was not an accessible ship in any way. However, I will be fair and tell all the good parts of the ship so those without disabilities can tell whether the ship would work for them. I could not, however, recommend this ship for anyone with a physical disability.
Our party consisted of my mother, age 72. She suffers from Alzheimer's disease and has severe mobility issues and many cognitive delays. We took this cruise for her as it was a lifetime dream for her and I wanted her to experience it as it will probably be her last travel experience. I am the daughter age 50. Finally, my daughter age 20 was with me. We began planning our trip in January. We immediately let More the cruise line know about my mom's health issues which also include needing to travel with diabetic supplies. I received a nice letter from the cruise line access office letting me know that they would be happy to assist us, that we would be provided help with embarkation and debarkation at all ports and that they would assist us in finding accessible tours and that a special assistant would be assigned to us upon boarding and would assist us throughout the trip. It was a nice letter, and it was the last thing I ever heard from them. None of what the letter promised ever happened.
We flew to Seattle on United Airlines through Denver connecting with Alaska air. Had great service on both flights and very understanding attendants who really helped us get my mom settled on the plane and assisted us in getting off the plane and finding our way to our connection. Upon arrival in Seattle, I had booked a package at the Holiday Inn Airport Hotel that included a room, free shuttle from the airport, and sedan service to the cruise port. What an absolute disaster! The airport has a phone system to contact hotels to ask for shuttle pick up. Holiday Inn airport was not listed on the phone system, so I contacted them on my cell asking for how I would get the shuttle. After some poor directions, I was told to just wait outside (at night in the cold with a disabled person until the shuttle got there, and no they didn't know how long it would be). We waited about 15 minutes and were taken to the hotel. We had a room on a top floor. Although I had requested an accessible room, we did not get one. The hotel was under construction. Lots of things in hallways and no ice machines on our floor due to construction. Our room overlooked a parking lot so lots of light all night. Once we got settled, we ordered room service and had a very nice meal, the food was very good. When we checked into the room, the clerk told us to come down in the morning when we were ready to go and the sedan would be ordered for us. However, when we ordered it in the morning, it was obvious that an error had been made. Thecar was not available. The hotel staff offered to get us a taxi instead, but I explained it would not work because of our luggage and the wheelchair. they ordered it anyway and when the ford focus arrived, it obviously would not hold us and the driver left angry. We missed our brunch reservation at the space needle because of this debacle. Finally, they transported us in the hotel wheelchair accessible shuttle which was driven by a young man who had never been to the port and got lost and parked us far from the embarkation site. He did however help us get our bags to a porter. But I would never recommend the airport holiday inn to anyone as a place worth staying in Seattle.
Embarkation: Quite a mess compared with Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or Port Caniveral. When we finally found the spot to check in, the attendant tried to put us in the regular line where we waited for several minutes only to find that the wheelchair could not go through that line. We were then told one of would have to wait in that line to check the luggage and then we could all go to the wheelchair line together..all the while making my mom wait in the cold. OOPS that wasn't right either. A gentleman taking care of luggage then told us if a porter checked our luggage we could enter all together in the wheelchair line all together. He then half heartedly waved at a porter while we continued waiting in the cold. When it was obvious his attention to us was not real, I walked over and got the porter myself and checked our bags with him. We then proceeded to the line that had been designated for wheelchairs. However, it was really the VIP line and the attendant there made sure to let us know we were NOT VIPS and we would not be entering there either. She asked who had told us this and proceeded to "correct" that person who was instructed to walk us all the way to the other end of the building where we actually did go to a wheelchair line. Our line was much shorter and our service was very quick. We were processed through the line and sent to the ship. Other people who had mobility issues and were using the cruiseline wheelchairs were given assistance getting up the gangplank, but since we had our own, we were made to push it up the gangplank ourselves. Many other passengers tried to call attendants on our behalf, but they just looked us and scurried back down with the cruise wheelchairs to get other passengers passing us right by. Definitely not the service our letter had promised. When we tried to check in the first time, we were pulled out of the fun red carpet line and had to provide special information about our room to the cruiseline so they would know where to send help in case of emergency. This was the same information we were required to send to them in advance of boarding and which we had already communicated three times. We then went to deck seven and paid our cash account with no problem at all. We did prepay gratuties. We did not place the suggested $700 per person on the account and had no problems with that at all from the staff. However, because we paid in cash, we were not allowed to buy our spa package on the red carpet where it was first offered, so our next stop was to high tail it up to floor 12 to buy a spa package. Then we went back to deck seven to access the dining room. This is when the real fun began! Wheelchairs can't enter the dining room from deck 7, we had to go to deck 6-----and only one elevator goes to deck six and it rarely comes to any floor but deck seven leading to changing elevators and lots of extra waiting for the whole trip. It was a real problem for the whole cruise and a horrible system. Once in the main dining room, the server was upset that mom would not be changing into a dining chair and frankly by that point I was already getting just a little angry over all the problems we were having after the promise of Norwegian being very accessible. Once seated by the stairway (even though all the window seats were available, but the staff didn't want to have to take a wheelchair into that space --- another discrepancy for the trip), we were treated to a nice lunch. The main dining room was almost empty, but the service was incredibly slow. We then proceeded to our room. It was set up as two twins and a pull down bunk and we did have a balcony. We enjoyed pulling out from Seattle on our balcony watching sailboats and seals and porpoises and the Space Needle fading away. Finally we relaxed and allowed ourselves to get cruise happy.
Cabin 9144 Our cabin was small for a balcony, but it was comfy and we did manage to find storage for all our things even though we had severely overpacked for this trip. The room was not accessible, but I must say that the Pearl has the best cruise ship showers I have seen. They are spacious and have good handles and my mom managed in them quite well. However, they get that shower space by segregating off the toilet which was very difficult for her to manage and did not have good pull of spaces and the toilet paper was hard for her to reach, so we did get very familiar with the accessible bathrooms in other areas of the ship and she only used the cabin toilet at night and in the early morning. I probably should have gotten the wheelchair accessible rooms, but they charge a lot more for the accessible balcony cabin and we could only afford an inside cabin in the accessible category. All things considered, I was grateful for the balcony so we made it work, but space became a challenge when we ended up having to put the twin beds together for her so she wouldn't fall out of bed and I ended up using the pull out sofa with my daughter still on the pull down. Man that pull out is uncomfortable!!!! the regular beds and pillows however are quite comfy and a good place to sleep. The couch is low and we ended up moving our extra chair and table onto the deck to make room for the wheelchair. The cabin was quiet. Our room steward, Eric, was very considerate and had our sharps container ready, kept ice in our bucket and moved the room around more than once to help us fit. He was awesome! and he made towel animals almost every night which is a requirement for my daughter:) 9144 is a really good cabin, close to the elevator, good views, and easy to get to other parts of the ship including dining room, buffet, service desk by only going down two flights of steps, The spa and theater or casino are at the other end of the ship.
Entertainment: REALLY, Really bad!!!! After being on the Allure last summer with its glorius entertainment, this poor boat was high school musical by comparison, just plain bad. The first night was an introduction to the remaining nights' entertainment. It was not too bad, but really the cruise director talked too much about too little and we ended up leaving early and going to sleep. We did enjoy the Frankie Valley show very much and felt those four young men were very talented. We also went to the broadway show night. It was just ok. The guys were pretty good, the girls were REALLY bad. My daughter also attended the magician/slash comedy show. She liked it a lot and said it was fun. We also watched the crew talent show on the ship tv...bad. Entertainment was also very repetitious. Each evening they had the same lady singer and couple singing in the main lounge, but very limited seating and while they weren't bad, it was an uncomfortable setting to try and watch and it was the same thing over and over every night. Also, due to the schedule of ports on this cruise, it is just plain hard to get to shows unless you skip a port...sorry, but I am not going to miss the chance to explore a beautiful city to see a bad lounge show.
SPA: LOVED IT!!! We bought the spa package for $117 per person. It was worth every penny. I am not a girlie girl or a big being pampered person. I have had one massage on the allure and that is it in my life, but this spa was really great! The steam bath is heavenly. The little hot tubs for one are awesome and very bubbly. I can't even describe how wonderful the tile loungers are other than to say they were better than my bed and I actually fell asleep in one twice. The pool is also very nice! We loved sitting on the loungers looking out at the ocean and reading our books. GREAT and well worth the dollars...not crowded, the staff was friendly, really a good deal for the week as you can use it on many days after hiking around port. It is open late too. I had planned to get a hot stone massage, but found that after my time in the steam bath I was relaxed enough I didn't need it.
Activities: we don't casino, so don't know but it was very smoky just to walk through it....bliss lounge, funny lots of karioki most pretty bad, but very enthusiastic. Bowling----in a word-----hysterical! Worst score I have ever had bowling in my life, but watching your ball basically switch directions with the rolling of the boat is worth the $5.00 a game price just for the laugh:) We had a lot of fun with that. Too windy for the climbing wall or shuffleboard and ping pong. Saw lots of people in the outside hot tubs, brave souls...and some were even swimming. We did play one trivia game and it was different. They put big pictures on the screen and it was a test of who recognized the historical figures being displayed. It was pretty fun. Saw a lot of people playing board games. Looked like majong and monopoly and scrabble were popular. We brought bananagrams but never got it out. Didn't make it to any of the funny stuff like newly wed game etc. don't do bingo, but it looked like a lot of people really liked the deal or no deal though.
Summer palace: we had breakfast once, lunch once, and dinner twice ----was pretty good, all the soup is pureed though which was weird. We ordered a corn chowder and it was a silky soup, not bad, just not chowdery. My daughter loved her salmon eggs benedict for breakfast and I found my oatmeal good. Coffee was really good. I also had a seasonal specialty dish that was a seafood lasagna and it was fantastic. Desserts were just ok. Service was slow and not very accommodating at all in this space. The dining room is pretty though and they have a pianist come in on some evenings which is a nice touch.
as I am writing this though, I realize that we stopped trying to eat there after the second night. It was just too hard for us to get to in a wheelchair, the service was not great, and it was really slow. Also, the menu got boring really fast. Check the menu daily to see if you want what is being served, if you don't like it, plan to go to a pay restaurant, they are worth the extra cost in both service and food choice and quality.
Buffet: HATE, LOATHE, DETEST buffets on a cruise boat. They are always crowded and the food is never good. Actually this ship had some interesting choices, but it was the usual mad house and the quality was iffy at best. Getting something to drink or finding a table that allowed for a wheelchair was impossible! The salad bar had some nice choices though. The hand dipped ice cream (pistachio) was really good. Some of the breakfast items were okay if you were creative. We got up late one morning and although the cruise daily said breakfast through 11:30 they had already changed to lunch by 11 so I got some savory corn pancakes and chicken that was pretty good. Lots of fruit which was nice. Dessert choices were odd but some were good. The hot cobblers with vanilla sauce were good each day. I will also say that the seating space overall was much too small for the number of people who wanted served. We often had to sit in overflow seating locations causing food to be carried long distances. No trays were provided and it was impossible to get both food and drink in one trip. So, food was often cold before a drink was brought back to the table. Coffee wasn't hot by the time food was brought back. If the ship is going to send passengers far from the buffet line to get food, trays are really a necessity.
exception::::chocolate dessert buffet....okay this was a highlight of the cruise. The desserts were creative and quite tasty. Was it worth risking life and limb to get a chocolate covered apple...probably not. But it was yummy. I took a plate of noms back to my room and had them for breakfast the next day with coffee, yummy and fun:) The chocolate fountain with marshmallows was good, the rum balls were good, and there was a chocolate and nut fudge pie that was awesome. Really all in all the best desserts on the whole cruise were found at this buffet. Go! It is fun and the line really moves fast so don't be intimidated that it is too long a wait. Pack a plate...get coffee or milk and head for your room for a late night chocofest!
final note on the buffet...if i ever hear washy washy happy happy again it will be too soon! I hated that whole routine. Other cruise ships manage to get people to wash their hands without the goofy song and way to happy morning routine. Hated that a lot! I did however like the crew having fun with songs and the cabana line, they were fun and seemed to genuinely enjoy each other . That was really good!
Blue Lagoon: convenient and easy to get seated. Service poor. Food extremely mediocre. Dry potato skins, lackluster burgers, just overall not great. But it was easy to get fed there. On the day of the glacier bay trip, my daughter and I wanted a quick lunch to take back to our cabin balcony. We wanted a hot meal so did not really want room service. We asked for take out from Blue Lagoon. At first they said no, but eventually they did let us have it, but they sent it through room service and would not let us carry it back. The chocolate brownie dessert was pretty good. We both liked the cheese panini. The spinach and artichoke dip is pretty good too for a quick munchie.
Room Service: Even though the menu says 24 hours it isnt. We tried to order sandwiches listed as 24 hour options for breakfast,but were told we could not have them until after 10. You can really only get pastry fro breakfast. So we did order pastries, fruit, and yogurt along with juice, hot chocolate and coffee for breakfast. The chocolate danish is pretty good as are the cinnamon rolls. I found the fruit on the whole boat to be really good especially the pineapple and I really did enjoy their coffee and I am not a big coffee fan. Room service was a great option on Glacier Bay day:) I made one mistake though...on Glacier Bay day, you can order special hot chocolate and adult beverages to be delivered to your room. They put the order form in your room the night before. I filled it out and set it out with our breakfast order. However, if I had read, it clearly stated that I needed to take it to the restaurant or call it in, my booboo, so we did not get our drinks. That was a disappointment. I wish our room steward would have filled me in so we had done it properly, he knew I messed up because he asked me about it that night...Room service is fast! We were also sent a nice tray of goodies from the ship for participating in the cruise critic meet and greet which was a nice surprise and tasty too...not things on the regular menu or buffet so fun.
Moderno: This restaurant had some really great points, but the main course meat was not the star by far. We had never been to a Brazilian concept dining venue so wanted to try it out and I am glad we did, we definitely had a good meal and we had fun. But you kind of have to play the system and pace yourself here. First, the quality of the wait staff was a huge improvement over main dining room. The waiter took my mom's wheelchair and helped us find a spot and parked her and set her brakes making sure she was comfortable. He was very patient with her laughing and smiling and really made her feel at ease. She loved him and that made my meal so much more pleasant. We all loved the tiny bread balls and butter, they were warm and yummy. The "salad bar" or appetizer station however you want to look at that was outstanding. Some really great choices and it would have been so easy to just make a meal of that. The soup here actually had real vegetables and seafood and wasn't all pureed so we liked that. Once you are ready you let them know to start your dinner service. The waiter brings the family style side dishes: rice and beans, mashed potatoes, and fried bananas. The bananas are SOOO good. Next they start bringing around the meat and that's when things get tricky. I am not a big meat eater, but I do like a nice steak now and then, but they bring the meat out in a particular pattern. First chicken, it was just okay, you can pick breast or leg, and it was fine, but I only ate one piece. The server kept pushing us to try more and both cuts. Then came ribs, really awful, dry and no meat at all, a terrible waste of calories. But again the "meat pusher" kept trying to get us to take more. He acted very hurt if we did not take his offerings which was uncomfortable. Then came sausages, my daughter took both types but really disliked one and only barely liked the chiorizo offering, she ate a few bites. This time I stood firm and turned it down. Next came a roast beef like brisket. Again very dried out and fatty not a good cut at all. None of us enjoyed that cut. Finally they brought the steaks. The filet was a very nice steak. I did not care for the aged roast beef cut at all. However, I felt like I finally figured out the trick to the restaurant. They hope to fill up the customer on cheaper cuts of meat so extras of the nice and more expensive cuts will not be requested. So be prepared if you go here, be firm with the servers and wait for the nicer cuts to come out. Don't take pieces of each thing just to be polite, ask for the pieces you will really like. The desert here was yummy to. Overall, this is a nice little restaurant. I ordered a mixed drink and got it served very quickly no questions asked, when I tried to order one in the main dining room it was not as easy a task.
In some of the ports, eating dinner on the ship would have meant being confined to the buffet, so in Juneau we took trip advisor advice and ate at Tracy's Crab Shack instead. Tracy's had wonderful reviews, but we didn't like it at all. The chowder was bland and did not have much crab in it. The shrimp and rice was so spicy we couldn't eat it, and we LIKE spicy. The coconut crab cakes and dipping sauce were really awesome, we all liked them and they went fast. The crab legs were huge and the concept fun, but the quality just wasn't there. The legs were like those I have had on many Atlantic coast buffets, not so good. Seating and service after a long day in port was also a problem. Definitely not worth the more than $100 bill. My daughter summed it up best and said that we should have bought sweatshirts instead and eaten on the boat. I am disappointed that I went here instead of checking out LeBistro on the ship.
Cagney's--what a treat! This is an awesome little restaurant! Service delightful. Again the waiter pushed my mom to her WINDOW seat (FINALLY)! He helped her get set up. When the waitress realized she was struggling. She made small talk and cut up her salad and entree making it much easier on me. Service was quick and accurate and the food was REALLY REALLY good! If you are only going to do one specialty resaurant this is the one to pick. It could compete with a nice city steakhouse. The only thing I did not care for was the gratin potatoes. Because we were stuffed, we couldn't finish our dessert, but it was really good, so we asked for a box to take it back to the room for later. They would not box it, but instead sent two completely new desserts to our room for us to enjoy at our leisure. They were waiting for us when we returned to our room that evening. YAYY!
La Cacina--my daughter really liked the soup...other than that this restaurant is nothing special. Very low quality Italian, but very large quantities. Service just ok and this restaurant seemed a little under staffed compared to the number of guests seated.
Shore excursions: Okay, first of all let me say I only booked tours that were listed as wheelchair accessible, but these tours are NOT accessible, if you have to leave your wheelchair and climb steps that is not accessible. Again, even though I contacted the cruise line very early and was assured the wheelchair tours would be accessible they were NOT. Let's start with Juneau...
Juneau: We booked the whale watching tour and mendenall glacier tour. $179 per person. Our tickets said to meet at 2:45 in the Stardust Lounge on deck 7. Once we got there, the staff told us we would be better off going to deck 6 (oh no not the elevator)! So to deck 6 we went. Once there, they said due to the wheelchair we needed to go to the Lotus restaurant on deck 8 and someone would help us disembark. However, when we got there no one was there. To be fair, the shore excursion staff was getting clobbered. While the weather was bright and sunny and warm, it was also VERY windy. Tours were getting cancelled right and left and they had a lot of upset people to deal with and to try and help reschedule. Anyway, a nice staff member saw us waiting and sent us back to yep, deck seven, I explained the situation we had been through and she called the main desk. They agreed that since we had our own chair (translation: they can push themselves off the boat), we could wait with the other passengers in the lounge. So backwe went. We waited a very long time. When our tour was finally called, we had to go to deck 4. We could not get an elevator and no staff members had been designated to help disabled passengers get any priority treatment to get on an elevator, so we waited a long time for a space. The ramp to get off the ship was steep and a staff member did help me to push. We were then put on a bus---not accessible, and a lot of steps. The driver did give us access to front seats. Once we got the tour boat they was an extemely steep ramp. The boat staff worked together to get my mom on the boat, but by the time they managed it, the reserved seats had all been taken by little kids and she could not even see. So, we did have to ask the others to move, which was not popular with their parents and the boat staff didn't explain their mistake which made it worse. Due to the wind, we did not stay in the bay long, and we did not see any humpbacks. However, the captain altered the route and within a little while we were in an area with about 4 other tour boats surrounded by Orcas including a mother and baby. No fancy breaching or tails, just whales cruising along and spouting. It was beautiful and the mountains were also lovely without a cloud anywhere. I will say, I did feel a little guilty for the whales as all the boats in the area seemed to be converging on them so they could live up to their whale sighting guarantee, it seemed a little overwhelming for the whales and I am not sure I would want to go with this company again after seeing the intensity of their pursuit of the whales. I was not really prepared that it would feel like a hunt, I just thought the whales would be there, so I am still a little confused about my feelings about the tour. I loved seeing the whales and getting pictures, they were beautiful and it was a once in a lifetime experience, but I just didn't feel good about it once it was over....at the end of the tour things really went badly, because of the wind, we did not go back to the original dock, instead, we went back to where the tour boats were. Now getting off the boat was even worse for my mom, she had to go up stairs to get off the boat, then she had a huge step up and onto a metal rod where they time up the boats, she actually had to stand up on that to get off. Several of the boat crew had to come and pretty much lift her up. It was really bad. I was so afraid that she would be hurt or fall, very stressful. Anyway we did get her off the ship, but by that point she was DONE! so we did not even try to get back onto the bus to go to the glacier. Instead we decided since we were in Juneau we would go eat dinner, see above. After dinner we headed back to the ship. Again no accessible transports. Five passengers in wheelchairs including us, set off to walk back to the ship. It honestly didn't look that far, but there was a huge hill. I am grateful to a kind Australian man who helped me push up the hill and actually pushed mom all the way back to the boat. By this point, I felt really disappointed that none of the promises Norwegian had made about accessibility had come to be reality. I knew I was in for a long week and my mom was getting more stressed and that leads to more episodes with her disease which was very upsetting.
Skagway: Our favorite port by far. We took the afternoon train ride with Liarsville trip. We spent the morning exploring the town. A fun little place with great souvenier shopping, fun snacks, a small trail leading to a creek and salmon hatchery, and lots of places for fun photo ops. This time the bus was accessible:) Our great driver, Steve, was great with mom and really took her in stride and with a sense of humor. He was a fun guide. He got us off early and then the train was also accessible and got us settled early so all went well. The train ride was great! I thought my daughter and I might get bored as we are not train people, but we definitely enjoyed our ride. The scenery is gorgeous, we got tons of photos, saw a mother bear with two cubs right by the tracks, got photos of Alaskas state bird which looks kind of like a chicken. It did snow on us. and we did get stuck for about half an hour by a snow avalanche blocking the tracks which added to the fun and makes for a good story. You get a bottle of water on the train, so bring snacks or lunch. This tour might not be fun for little kids, but several tweens on our bus seemed to be enjoying it as much as we were. At the end of the trip, you get back on the bus and cruise the Klondike HWY to Liarsville. Steve narrated the trip, stopped twice so we could get some fantastic photos along the road, and really made us laugh. At Liarsville, you get cookies (store bought) and hot cider *yummy). You get some fun stories and songs in a pretty location with a roaring fire and a resident mouch Dolly the sled dog puppy who is HUGE and fluffy and adorable. Then you pan for gold. Finally right back to the ship. Very great day. Would definitely do again and highly recommend for all ages but the very young who might get bored with such a long ride.
Glacier Bay: So this one day made every negative I experienced aboard the pearl worth it. Some cruise lines have been bad in Alaska and are therefore banned from entering this magical place. So, sailing on Norwegian was worth it just to get to go here. It is cold in glacier bay---hats, coats, mittens, scarves, parkas, are a NECESSITY. and a balcony on this trip was well worth the extra money!!! We lived on our balcony and could enjoy a private breakfast and lunch. It was also much warmer on our balcony than the upper decks. We could get by with sweatshirts and mittens on the balcony and by afternoon even just tshirts. On deck it was windy and cold. It makes no difference which side your balcony is on as the boat spins and gives every one a chance to see at each major glacier. We saw eagles, seals, mountain goats, and dozens of otters!!!!! The naturalist also saw a bear and humpback whale but only for a few seconds and most people did not get to see them because they were seen only from the bridge. The glacier was really lovely, no calving for us, but still an awesome experience to sail among the lonely floating ice. Binoculars and a good telephoto lens are necessary for good wildlife viewing. You can hear the naturalist from the tv in your room, but do run up to the main deck at least for the Majorie glacier viewing. Also, be prepared for the gulls, they know about bread and french fries that get left on balconies and it felt a little like a Hitchcock movie there for a while, but I got some really cool photos of the birds against the glacier. Be prepared to get up early and stay vigilant in watching for wildlife until around 3 pm, you will see things if you watch for them.
Ketchikan----we took the Misty Fijord boat tour. This boat met us right at the pier. They did have a wheelchair ramp, but it was very narrow and did not fit adult or wide based wheelchairs, so mom had to walk a really steep ramp to get on the boat, due to tides, the ramp was more even when we got off the boat and much easier for her to do. They did have seats reseved for all the disabled passengers on this tour. Because it left very early, they gave us a small strawberry pastry with hot chocolate or coffee. They also had instant oatmeal or snacks and soda you could purchase. They also gave a choice of veggie chili (spicy, but yumtastic) or a seafood chowder for a free lunch snack. This boat flies across the water so stay inside if you want to stay dry. on the way to the fijord, we immediately began seeing eagles and they took us to a nest they knew of. we saw many whales spouting and surfacing, but since that was not the focus of the tour the captain kept going:( they took us up close to the walls of the fijord and since it was low tide we could see many orange and purple starfish...sit on the right side if you want to see them. then a pod of Dall's porpoise began playing with us. the captain did play along with them so we got a nice long visit. The misty fijords are really amazing...go up top when you stop to really put the falls in perspective. i got pictures of some cute cliff dwelling birds too. on the way back you csan see a glyph of an ancient tribe. we got a real treat on the way back when a large humpback breached and twisted in the air just off the front of the boat. he stuck around long enough for me to get some stunning fluke pictures!!!! We all really liked this tour a lot.
Victoria: we wanted a less expensive day asore in victoria, so we headed for fishermans wharf to see the harbor seals. and we did see them. it was a $7 taxi ride there. there is a vibrant houseboat community to see. you can feed the seals. we had dinner at barbs fish and chips---very greasy, but edible. you can also take harbor tours in little water taxi. there is also an ice cream store. after about 2 hours as we got ready to leave a big storm blew in and we needed to get back to the ship fast. unfortunately no taxis came so we walked back---at least downhill this time:} unfortunately the wharf was really uneven and in our effort to be fast, we broke one of the foot pedals off the wheelchair---thankfully guest services keeps duct tape on board for emergency reconstruction.
Ship--the pearl is not pretty as far as ships go, no pretty atriums or grand central spaces. i think this was especially apparent to me as i rode the Allure last summer and she was spectacular. the ship is neat and clean though. it does have a pretty chihuly. one horrible thing though was that there were these raised brass panels on the ground about every 50 ft. there were hard to steer over, the wheelchair often got caught and it was jarring to my mom.
seattle---if you are staying in the area for a while, brunch at the space needle is so worth it! the seattle aquarium is also great as is the chihuly garden museum.
olympic national park is extraordinary if you have 2 or 3 days or more before you have to go home
so overall, we loved alaska, and if it had just been my daughter and i, we would have loved the pearl, but due to the accessibility issues for my mom our trip was severely diminished. for this reason, i cant give the pearl a good review and would tell disabled travelers to stay off this boat. Less
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