We entirely enjoyed our early September cruise to Alaska on the NCL Pearl. From the moment we boarded the ship, receiving high fives from the welcoming crew on the gangway to the moment we left, receiving farewell handshakes from some of the top officers, we experienced what it feels like to be a valued customer.
I give credit to the very accessible captain, Captain Tommy Stensrud, and the equally accessible hotel manager, Prem, for the wonderful hospitality. My husband pointed out that we met the captain four separate times on the first sea day! The captain and all the top officers came to our Cruise Critic meet and greet. This is only the second time that I have ever seen a captain at a Cruise Critic meet and greet. He was very gracious and told us that he tries to attend the Cruise Critic functions whenever he can. The hotel manager Prem made an excellent point that if there is any problem with our service, address it while on board, and they will endeavor to fix it. He said that they do read the reviews and value our input. If you tell him the cruise was great and then write a bad review, you never give him an opportunity to make things right.
We actually did complain about some bad service in the Summer Palace main dining room, and it was swiftly and personally addressed. We received a form letter acknowledgment from Prem, then a personal phone call from the Summer Palace head manager, then a personal visit the next time we dined from the manager who was on duty the night of the incident. We felt that everything was professionally addressed. At every turn, we felt like valued customers.
Our cabin was a mini suite, midship. The location was quiet, and the room was spacious for two people. We enjoyed having a larger bathroom with a tub. The little bit of extra bathroom real estate afforded to us by the length of the tub made it easier to get ready in the morning.
For all of our destinations, we just wish we had a little more time. We just loved Alaska! In Juneau, we took the Gastineau Guiding Photo Excursion by Land and Sea. It was excellent and the highlight of our trip. There were three couples, and we had basically a private whale watching tour, combined with a nature hike at Mendenhall Glacier. We even spotted a bear.
In Skagway, we rented a car and drove to the Yukon territory. The views were incredible on the way to Emerald Lake. In Ketchikan, we took a trolley tour not affiliated with the cruise line, which we would not recommend. In Victoria, we took a cruise line excursion to Butchart Gardens. Our driver was great and the narration was informative. The gardens were beautiful, but it was already dusk when we arrived, and the gardens are not well lit. I assume that they are breathtaking in the daylight, but frankly it got so dark, that we couldn't really continue touring. This tour is best done when there are more daylight hours.
We thoroughly enjoyed having a balcony for Glacier Bay. It got very crowded on the main decks, and it was a pleasure to enjoy the scenery in quiet, with the ship's bridge channel broadcasting the narration by the park ranger. We also took advantage of the balcony for early morning whale watching, where we spotted Orcas.
The food overall was good. We ate at Le Bistro, which was fantastic. We also ate at La Cucina. The quality of the food is like an Italian chain restaurant, but we knew that ahead of time, so not a problem. We also ate at each main dining room, the Garden Buffet, and the Great Outdoors Buffet. For better quality food, you really need to go to a specialty restaurant. However, we are frequent NCL cruisers, so we know what to expect where and adjust our expectations accordingly. It's all about attitude.
We experienced some but not all of the onboard entertainment. We did go to the Oh What a Night tribute concert. The guys are very talented. I liked them so much that I bought their CD, which is something I don't usually do. We also enjoyed the Second City troupe. We like their humor and were excited that they were part of the entertainment. We also enjoyed listening to the very talented Arvin and Emily sing after dinner in the atrium.
On the second to last night, at the end of the farewell show, the officers, crew and captain lined the hallway of the exit to the Stardust theater and applauded the guests as they left. Now, that is how you make passengers feel appreciated!