I was on the 6 day reposition cruise from Vanvouver to Los Angeles, celebrating my 10-year anniversary with my wife. A friend's family also joined us.
Booked about 6 months before sailing and paid 1100 for two for an inside cabin. One week prior sailing the pricing has gone down to $800 for two, so I called Costco travel. No you will not get a refund for the difference (unless you got a "lowest price guaranteed package), but Costco is nice enough to get NCL to upgrade my cabin to oceanview for free. (At the time the ocean view cabins were about 1000 for two, so I guess you can "exchange" to anything that's under the price you paid originally.)
I arrived 3 days early to Vancouver to do some sightseeing, with a rental car that I picked up from Avis @ airport. The return location is Hornby Street that's fairly close to Canada Place. However, this time NCL was assigned to use this "Ballantyne Pier", and I've heard bad thing about that neighborhood, so my original plan of "dropoff -> return car -> walk" was changed to "dropoff -> return car -> taxi". Taxi was $13 from Hornby Street to Ballantyne Street, and $15 including tip was all I paid. Pretty reasonable.
Btw, the Port's website is misleading on the directions. You simply take Heatley north and it will drop you in front of the cruise terminal. Don't take Clark unless you're coming from the east.
The embarkation was smooth. I love the facilities of Ballantyne Pier. Easy curb-side drop off and less traffic. The entire process from the point the taxi drops me off, to myself reunite with wife and friends, to actually set foot on the ship, was about 35 minutes.
Once aboard, we proceed to Tsar main dining room for lunch. It's just much nicer than the buffet. It is very hard to get seats for buffet and pool side since most of the passengers are there, and we have a few carry-on luggages and young children. Many don't realize some ships do have the main dining room open for lunch, and they don't publicize that, so you need to ask.
Room Cleaning/Organizing: Great. Rick was the staff. He's just great.
Room Maintenance: Our shower door fell off the first day. It was not fixed until the third day. For me it is on the slower side. I do have spa pass so this causes only little trouble, but what if I didn't have a spa pass? Shower doors are pretty much standard, so get one from an empty cabin, or get one from a staff's room, is a better approach.
Dining: This is the fourth time I'm on an NCL cruise. This time the food is salty. The first day I thought it's just a rare occasion that the head chef overlooked, but throughout the entire cruise, doesn't matter which dining room we go, the food is consistently salty. Think NCL did that on purpose to push you to try specialty restaurants? Well, the paid restaurants also have the same problem. Buffet is the only exception, so every night after my main dining, after taking just a few bites because too salty, I will proceed to buffet to continue my meals. One thing to point out, desserts are still great. Good varieties and flavors, and even have sugar free version.
Spa: The spa pass was $119 because it's only 6 days. It's money well spent. Most of the trip is cold, so spa provided an indoor and quiet place. Male and demale have their own area so if getting completely naked is your thing, then you have a place to go. Of course there also has a co-ed area that you get to relax side by side with your spouse, families and friends. OJ and tea is served all day inthe co-ed area so that's great. On a sea-day I spend the entire afternoon here, staring at sea and listen to the music.
Main dining crew: I tink the crew are a little not as friendly as before. My 6 dinners there, only one night I'd say it has the NCL standard I used to get. Very little interactions. Is it because it's reposition cruise?
Buffet: For me the buffet scored high this time. Good food, and they have a guy singing the "washing-washing hands" song all day. He's great! Kids loved him. That song still stuck with me.
Shore Excursions: I walked all ports. See below:
Victoria: 30 minutes walking from pier to down town. (if you want, cab is about $15 including tip, but walking along shore and nice houese are great!)
Astoria: the city is selling $7 ticket that gives you all day trolley ride (Runs from just ourside the pier and goes east for a few miles. Not too far. Only one car, runs back and forth. If you can't board at the beginning, you will never be able to board along the way. Most of the people board at pier, and rides all the way, and then rides all the way back.) , all day shuttle bus rides (Pier -> Commercial/10th ->Maritime Museum -> Marine/9th -> Pier. they have 5-6 busses running this route and average wait is about 15-20 minutes), and the transfer bus to Astoria Column (The staff will tell you to be at Commercial/10th at 1PM sharp, but you can pretty much arrive any time after 1PM. The bus stop is on Commercial/10th and on the north east corner, on 10th. They have 2-3 busses running this route and the wait is about 20 minutes)
I rode the bus to Maritime Musem, Do some sightseeing, then had to try really hard to board the east bound trolley. When the trolley comes to the stop, our group of six are the only ones getting off. We continue walking east-ward on the river-front walk and visited Pier 39 (has a small bumblebee museum teling you the history of Bumblebee in Astoria). Then we walk back and took 45 minutes (in rain) to get back to Commercial/10th to ride transfer shuttle to Column. Column is great, you get climb all the way up and get some really good pictures. It also has a clean bathroom facilities in the parking lot.
SF: We opt to walk from Pier 35 to the beginning of Taylor St cable car, so we can purchase the all day ticket ($14). With cable car $6 one way and $12 round trip, all-day ticket is the way to go. You can ride cable car all day, ride bus 30 to Palace of Fine Art, ride bus 28 to Golden Gate bridge, 39 to Coit Tower, and ride Street Car "F" from Fisherman's back to the cruise terminal.
Debarkation: The day before debark you should proceed to excursion desk, and there you can see the luggage tags up for grab. You take the ones that match your schedule. I live in OC so there's no rush, and I pisked the 10AM debark time (and actually get called at 9:30AM the day of debark, so it runs pretty smooth) I had a PrimeTime shuttle picking us up. Pretty easy to find the shuttle stop.
Conclusion: Very nice trip. Everything went the way it should, except the food. Food is salty, especially the seafood. I've chat with a few people I met on the ship, and pretty much the same feeling, so it's not just me.