We recently sailed out of Seattle on the NCL Pearl to Alaska on June 29th (7 nights, visiting Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Victoria BC).
Although this was our 6th cruise, it was the first time not on a Carnival ship. Extended family from various parts of the country flew or drove to meet in Seattle. We had a party of 11, with the youngest being 9 and the oldest being 82. We had a bit of difficulty getting down to the port, due to the streets been closed for a parade. So after a delay of about 50 minutes, everyone seemed to arrive at the port all at once. The lines were quite long and it took 1 - 2 hours to board the ship. Our rooms were ready by about 1:30. The weather in Seattle was nice and a few members of our party were climbing the rock wall before we even left port.
Our 2nd day was at sea, and while running on the track mid-morning I heard an announcement that whales were being spotted near the ship. We saw several whales that morning (both close and in the distance we could see their spouts).
The next day we arrived in Juneau. The weather was nice, and we took the free shuttle into town and walked around. A few members of our party stopped by the Red Dog Saloon for drinks.
The next day we arrived in Skagway, and took the White Pass Scenic Railway excursion. It was a gorgeous day, & the views were incredible. We saw several otters and one more whale as we left port that day.
The next day we cruised Glacier Bay and it was very cold, rainy, and foggy, but amazing none the less.
The last Alaskan town we visited was Ketchikan, and it was a very beautiful. It was the 4th of July, and one benefit was that we got to see the local parade right from the deck of our ship. The downside being most excursions were cancelled due to the streets being close. If excursions had been booked prior through the cruise line, then those excursions still were valid. But it was almost impossible to book any excursions when you arrived on the pier.
Our last stop was in Victoria BC. Again the weather was mild but still kind of gray and rainy. We did a two mile shoreline walk that was very pretty and a nice change of pace from the crowded ship.
In general we did not like the layout of the ship as much as the carnival ships we have been on. The buffet always seemed like crowded chaos, with barely enough seating. Our ship was completely full, so maybe that was why. We even checked the very back of deck 12 (outdoor seating) because I had read on here that it was usually available, but even it was full at typical meal times.
We ate in the main dining rooms (either Summer Palace or indigo) most evenings. The food was okay, not bad, not great, but the food is not really of that much interest to me, and we certainly weren't going to starve. :-) The service was very slow, but again not a big deal, as we really didn't have much else to do. If we couldn't get out in time for the first show, we just attended the second one. I agree with others who have said that this cruise line will nickel and dime you to death. Although the main dining room and the buffet are still complimentary, they have multiple specialty restaurants for which they charge a fee. I’ve heard people say that NCL has downgraded the food in their complementary restaurants to drive people to the specialty restaurants, but never being on NCL before, I don’t have anything to compare to. It also seemed strange to me that they reserve their top deck (courtyard, hot tubs, etc.) for specific people who book their specialty suites. I’m surprised they’d isolate such a large nice area for a select few, but they are certainly entitled to their own marketing theories. : -)
We were very impressed with their overwhelming encouragement : -) of hand sanitizer (they have someone with a full spray bottle ready at the entrance of the buffet and upon return to the ship). Unfortunately 4 people in our party still managed to come down with food poisoning/norovirus (not sure which, but I’ll spare you the details). None of us has ever experienced that on a cruise before…it was rough.
In general this was a nice trip, but most of us prefer the warmer climate cruises. Although NCL offers some great destinations at good prices, I don't think we will choose NCL again. For similar prices, we much prefer Carnival.