Arrived in Seattle on Friday before we sailed on Sunday. Got in late friday night because of delays..grrr. Had a great day in Seattle and awesome weather for our day in Seattle. We did the same thing last year, so what we didn't go to last year we had a chance to this year. We have cruised on 4 other cruise lines and decided to give NCL a look this year. I read several reviews on here and felt pretty hopeful . We cruised with HAL last year to Alaska and no complaints, NCL ported in Skagway and that was a must for us this year. On Sunday we had planned to get to pier 66 around 10 a.m , well my wife while getting ready discovered she had a UTI and she needed antibiotics. So after hustling to find ER and then a place to get RX filled on Sunday.. ( thank God we found a Target on Sat with a pharmacy) it was around 12:30 when we arrived at the pier.
Embarking> Nothing like HAL. I really don't blame NCL for the chaos, I really think that Pier 99 has just so much more room. But NCL is definitely not as organized as Holland. We got in line to check bags which we have never had to do with any other cruise line. I was expecting baggage people to be waiting when we got out of taxi, but no, you tote your luggage for about an hour through maze of lines until you check them yourself. No big deal really, just unexpected, so be prepared. NCL could really learn some pointers from HAL,Celebrity,RCI .
After finally getting on board around 1:30 went to buffet and had a great lunch, and got full. After eating in buffet I go out to deck by pool and find out they are having a grill party! yea, steaks, burgers, bq chicken.. and what made me frustrated was NO ONE OR NO INFO about it. So if you board late, don't go to the buffet, wait on the grill party. It looked great! You will find out that in "freestyle cruising" it has both good and bad . Just to make it clear we are not a "Pompus" rich family. Just good ole country folk who bust their butt and save enough to go on vacation once a year.
Our balcony was a mini suite which was about 400$ more and was really happy with it. We sat on the balcony for hours. We loved being on deck 11.
Now to get to what most people look for on reviews.. the FOOD.. food was overall better than any cruise line we have been on. The only thing is they have the same things every day in the buffet. I was tired of roasted chicken by the 3rd day, although it was great. We ate main dining room every night and we loved not dressing up all formal. Food was good, steaks were not good, but lobster was incredible! But take note> only ONE night of lobster. .
Ship was great, very clean and loved the layout!
Random thoughts> PRO"S>. Freestyle cruising that NCL is pushing is just what it says. No one bothers you , very few announcements over the intercom pushing you to go to activities. Just do what you want ,when you want. We really liked being able to go eat dinner anytime between 5 and 9. We found out either go at 5 or be there around 7 or be ready to wait an hour or so.
CONS> In freestyle cruising you are on your own. If your a person who enjoys doing or going to activities on board then you better read the daily program and mark times of events. Events like the marriage game are not announced and not even in the largest venue. First cruise where only 200 people attended. If you cruised before you know what I"m talking about.
And don't expect to be waited on in freestyle cruising. Getting drinks refilled or anything like that is not happening in the Garden Cafe. Service kinda goes out the window with freestyle cruising. Not as far as the service of your staterooms or things , just mostly in the dining experience.
Entertainment. The show "Oh what a night" was GREAT. The Improv group called "second city" was GREAT. The ships entertainers was just ok to poor.
One thing that there wasn't was late night adult comedy shows. On other boats there was almost nightly a late nigh comedian that we really enjoy going to before bedtime. Not on NCL. The only late night adult show was the night before disembarking.. really? the one night that a lot of people with early flights have to get off boat early? .
Overall> I know I posted a bunch of cons on our trip, but I wanted everyone who read this to be prepared . I honestly LOVED this boat and this trip! maybe didn't sound like it from review, but we did. There are pro's and con's to every boat. I loved the fact that there was a much younger crowd ! Lot of kids who you never noticed but were there. On HAL the average age last year was probably around 65, this year on the Pearl I would say around 45 . I loved that smoking was only permitted in certain limited areas. I loved the taste of the food and they actually had "gravy " like we have in the south. I loved that you could sit and not have people coming up to you every 3 minutes trying to sell you a drink. If you want a drink you kinda have to hale a server. I loved that the workers on the ship seem laid back and would talk to you without being scared to death they would get griped at . They were wayyyyy more laid back than any other boat we have been on..
WE WILL go with NCL again. And Alaska is INCREDIBLE>