Our family of four included two kids, age 9 and 17. We had a couple of days in Seattle prior to boarding, so we stayed at the conveniently located Seattle Marriott Waterfront Hotel. All we had to do was roll our bags across the street to board the Pearl.
The embarkation process was painfully long with the line to get our bags x-rayed snaking through the terminal building. Once the bags were checked, the registration process to get our key cards for Lattitude members was a breeze. Next time I will have lunch on shore and board the ship a little later to avoid the lines at boarding and at Garden Cafe - the buffet restaurant.
The Pearl has a climbing wall (fee), bowling alley ($5/game), basketball court, golf swing area, three ping pong tables, pool with waterslide and a couple of jacuzzis - plenty of to keep our family busy.
We had a balcony cabin for four people. The balcony was small compared to the balconies on the Princess ships. The cabin also did not More
have adequate storage for our stuff. But we managed by unpacking only what we needed for the 7 days and pushing our suitcases under the bed. Once the bunk bed and sofa bed were pulled out in the evening, we could not access the balcony - bummer.
The service aboard the ship, in general, was excellent. Our room steward was discreet and went out of his way to accommodate our sleeping schedule - three early risers and one teen who slept until 11am. Our teen thoroughly enjoyed the Teen Club and spent most of his waking hours there with the rest of the teens. Our 9-year-old also enjoyed the Kid's programs and used them once in a while.
One problem we had was that there was a long wait (20 to 45 minutes) for dinner at the main dining rooms - Indigo and Summer Palace - during meal times. This didn't work too well for our 9-year-old who is used to eating by 6pm. We had our breakfast and lunch at the buffet so we wanted a sit-down dinner. We complained to Prem K (awesome hotel manager) and he took care of the problem right away by making a standing reservation for us. We really appreciated how quickly he resolved our problem. I think this is the type of excellent service that makes us return to NCL for our cruises.
In general, the food on the ship was very good with a good selection - even for us vegetarians. The Indian curries at the buffet were excellent, probably due to the Indian cooks. One letdown was that the bread rolls served in the main dining rooms at dinner were not served warm. Also, the lunch menu in the main dining rooms did not change each day, like the dinner menu.
The Shore Excursions offered by the ship are pricey. They offer a good selection. I normally organize independent excursions, but this time I did not have time, so we signed up through the ship. All the excursions were signed up for were good (Ice climbing on Mendanhall Galcier, White Pass train, zip lining, Misty Fjords floatplane ride) with the exception of the Orca watching cruise in Victoria. We paid $140/person and we were out on the water for 3.5 hours. Sadly, we did not see any wildlife. Although, I realize that there are no guarantees when it comes to wildlife watching, I felt cheated and felt that the company, Orca Spirit, should have returned part of the fee. I hope that NCL will not use this company in the future and go with a company that offers some sort of guarantee or your money back.
Having the naturalists aboard on the day of Glacier Bay cruising is a good idea and they provided an educational commentary throughout the morning. They were also available to answer questions. They told us when to look for whales (late afternoon) and sure enough we saw Orcas from our balcony - yay!
It would be really useful if NCL would have a large LCD display showing the position of the ship in real time. They have a useless map on Channel 22 that basically shows that the ship is somewhere near Alaska on a global map. I would love to see a detailed map in real time of the ship's position/route.
They sometimes show movies on a large screen in the Atrium. I tried to watch a couple but it was very difficult as there was too much light and too many people chatting and walking around. Would be much better to show the movies in StarDust Theatre.
The entertainment was okay. There was a magician/comedian who was pretty good and the Oh What a Night singers were good as well.
Disembarkation was not a problem as we walked off with our own luggage when we were ready and didn't have to wait to leave when our "color" was called. Less