Embarkation: We had booked flights with JetBlue that arrived at 10am on the day of sailing. However, two weeks before our flights JetBlue sent us an email alerting us the flight had been cancelled and they took the liberty of changing us to a later flight that arrived at 1:00pm. That wasn’t going to work, so I rescheduled us to a flight the day before and we booked a hotel near the airport. The hotel was noisy but the room was spacious and walking distance to a number of restaurants. My brother flew in from a different city on a different airline and was scheduled to come in at 10am the day of embarkation. However, we texted us right before we were on our way to meet him at the airport that his flight would be delayed 2 hours. That was a tense hour of waiting and calling Southwest every 10 minutes to see if the flight would be delayed further. Luckily it wasn’t and his flight ended up being delayed only an hour so he arrived around 11:30am. I had to call FlatRate for hire twice to reschedule the airport pickup and they were great about it. The luggage took a while so the driver had to wait 15 minutes for us and we gave him a big tip for his trouble. We ended up arriving at Pier 66 at 12:30pm and were on the boat by 1:30pm after waiting in the luggage check-in line for 30 minutes and then the check-in line for 30 minutes. By this time, we were starving and headed immediately to the buffet for lunch. After eating we went back to the room to unpack and had all but 2 of our bags by 4pm. We headed up to the sail away party at 4pm and danced our way out of Seattle as the sun came out. My sister and I had a sail away cocktail (Mai Tai in a plastic bowl) as other family members grabbed a snack at the BBQ. Great way to start the cruise!
Cabin: We chose two cabins on the 5th floor. I only learned after booking that the 5th floor is usually the worst floor because it is under the casino. However, we heard no noise from above ever- it could have been because we were on the outside, versus inside cabin. We were located near the forward elevators, which made it very convenient to reach the Casino (Floor 6), Stardust Theater (Floor 6), Gym (Floor 12) and Spinnaker Lounge (Floor 13) all located in the Forward part of the ship. Getting to Garden Café took a little more time, but once we realized we had to walk to the mid elevator to access it, it was a breeze.
We didn’t meet our neighbors until Saturday evening as we were heading to dinner. They said they had not heard a peep from our room all week, so either we were very quiet or we were out each night partying. Hee! I think a little of both was true since the nights we weren’t out late, we were asleep early.
Food: For the most part, the food was good. We only ate at each of the main dining rooms twice for dinner due to time. The first time was at Indigo; we decided to just order appetizers to share, and were disappointed by the quality. The crab cakes did not taste like crab at all- in fact, they tasted like tuna and my brother found them to be too salty. The smoked salmon tartare was 75% cucumber. My panzanella salad was good but the squash had a weird taste. The dessert was good but not great- molten chocolate cake that was overcooked so had no molten, vanilla cheesecake, and cherries jubilee. Summer Palace a couple nights later was much better. The molten chocolate cake was perfect. I ordered risotto and escargot for appetizers- both were okay. The risotto seemed to be made with long grain rice and the snails were in a brown sauce which is different than I’ve had in the past. I ordered a salad with fried calamari on top- the calamari was not good, but the rest of the salad was delicious. Everyone enjoyed their meal and the service was great even though they added an additional table behind us which was so close the waitress couldn’t get through without my sister sliding her chair forward each time she needed to pass through. Garden café was generally good- the pre-made waffles and French toast were good, as well as the croissants and sticky buns. If anything, I Iiked knowing that if I couldn’t much I liked, there was at least good Indian food. My favorite desserts were the chocolate cheesecake and chocolate bread pudding on chocolate night. The pineapple and honeydew were outstanding though I had to cut back on the pineapple after developing pineapple bumps on my mouth. That’s when I discovered the delicious honeydew!
Because we wanted to participate in as many activities as possible, it was just easier to eat quickly at Garden Café and my brother really liked being able to eat as frequent and often as he liked. He had breakfast by himself most mornings, then waited for rest of us to get ready and joined us for second breakfast.
We ate at Blue Lagoon express a few times since it was convenient and meant not losing our seats to view the World Cup games which played in the Atrium and on televisions in Bliss and Bar City. Yes, we could have stayed in our cabins to watch the games, but it’s way more fun watching them with others. They had a chocolate dessert there that was somewhat pedestrian, but very good; it was basically fudge on top of a chocolate rice krispie treat but oh so good! The fried chicken was good and they also had soup and salad. The French fries and fried fish were good when they were fresh. The spinach dip always looked cold, so never tried it. One day they had really good Asian-style green beans, but we never saw it there again. The last day they served some sort of cream soup that my brother described as clam chowder without the clam flavor; he overheard one of the waiters ask the chef what it was and the chef replied “garlic soup.” LOL. They must have really run out of clams and salmon for the chowder. We tried to get take out at Summer Palace one day for lunch, but the maitre’d wouldn’t allow it because she said it was too busy. We didn’t expect such snootiness on board, but we laughed it off and hit up the buffet instead.
Entertainment: We really enjoyed all the entertainment. We tried to do trivia as much as possible and even got first place twice (well we tied 3 ways both times), winning Norwegian water bottles. The only shows in Stardust we were able to catch in their entirety were the Glacier Bay ranger slideshow and the Encore show with the Matador of Magic and Oh What a Night. Both were very entertaining. We attended Battle of the Sexes, Not So Newlywed Game, Dancing with the Pearl Stars and the Quest in Spinnaker Lounge. Dancing was my favorite because of the Losers Lounge interviews. Oh What a Night tribute band had some impressive falsetto voices that seemed unnatural. The two nightlife bands were very good – Future Perfect and Energy Plus, and we became Future Perfect groupies because the lead singer was so engaging. Their 70s rock party was the best and we enjoyed re-living it on the cruise TV channel each day. Unfortunately I missed the famed White Party, falling asleep in my outfit 30 minutes before it started. After that disappointment, I resorted to drinking 2 cups of coffee each evening to help me stay awake.
Juneau: In Juneau we booked an excursion using Viator with Juneau Whale Watch that included a City Tour, 1 hour stop at Mendenhall Glacier, ticket to Mt. Roberts tram, and dinner on Mt. Roberts. The city tour and glacier were amazing. Our bus driver Ben (He told us his last name is Dover, and now I can’t remember his actual last name) was a Tlingit Indian and told us a lot of history about the area and his culture, and stopped at a couple places for photo ops. My dad spotted a bear on the way to Mendenhall, plus we saw lots of bald eagles. At Mendenhall my sister made the hike to Nugget Falls while the rest of us only went half way. Touching the glacial ice was pretty cool. Unfortunately we ran out of time in Juneau, so were rushed when we headed up the tram to Mt. Roberts so weren’t able to fully enjoy the view. The service in the restaurant was bad and we didn’t have time to eat dinner. Unfortunately this put a real damper on our day as we were really looking forward to our crab legs and had a very uncomfortable encounter with the restaurant staff. We had to brush it off though and not let it completely ruin our day, though I was resolved to file a complaint when I got back home. In Juneau we bought some souvenirs and then headed back to the ship about 30 minutes before all aboard time. This port and Victoria were the only ones that were not easy walking distance to downtown; however Norwegian provided a free shuttle for the 4 minute drive. It would have been an easy 10-15 minute walk, though there didn’t appear to be a sidewalk.
Skagway: In Skagway, I booked a tour with Chilkoot Charters and Tours and our guide was James from Australia who lives in Tuscon, Arizona during the winter months. He told us great stories as we drove into Yukon Territory and stopped along the way for photo opportunities. The line to get into Canada was long and a few of us fell asleep as we wanted for Canadian officials to board our van to check our passports. Emerald Lake was our favorite stop and we even spotted a black bear on the shore. Though a tourist attraction, Caribou Crossing was a fun stop. The donuts were cold, but still good, and there were two puppies that looked to be able 6 weeks ago that liked to bite everything (luckily not people!). There was also a black horse, two pigs, miniature horses, and a bunch of goats for petting. The taxidermy museum was pretty neat too. Beware the mountain goats up in the hills are fake!!! We stopped in the town of Carcross on the way to the train station, but only for 5 minutes to stamp our passports, so I didn’t have time to buy anything even though I really wanted to support this community. We hopped on the train next and we almost immediately spotted a caribou in the bush. It was pretty scary curving through the steep mountains, but once I got used to it I could enjoy the ride. We stopped twice to pick up hikers and made it back to town around 4:30 in the afternoon. Since we still had time before all aboard, we spent some time souvenir shopping and then went to Skagway Brewing Company for some local refreshments. For $8 we sampled all 4 of the local beers on tap that day- they were all really good and we felt really good after drinking them, dancing our way back to the ship.
Glacier Bay: We got up early to meet the rangers that had climbed onboard. They gave a brief 15 minute talk in Spinnaker and brought some literature for us to look through, as well as faux animal furs to touch. I bought a postcard book for $7. After that we headed up to the Great Outdoors for breakfast and to secure our spot for glacier viewing. It rained this day and the crew moved all the furniture under the covered area and wiped it dry with pool towels. We had an incident with one rude passenger who grabbed a chair from our table and placed it directly in front of where my sister was standing. My brother stood in front of him, blocking his view, until eventually he moved. Because of the rain, not a ton of people were outside and it was perfect for us. They came around with hot chocolate which was too milky and bundled up in our seats. When we approached Marjorie Glacier it was amazing and every time the ship turned to where we were sitting, we saw it calve! So in total, I saw it calve 3 times. The third time was a huge piece and the sound was like thunder. The captain also took us to Lamplugh Glacier which was really special. Later that day, we grabbed a spot in Garden Café by the window and saw sea lions and otters pass by. It was the coolest day ever. Unfortunately, my sister and I wore the wrong shoes and at the end of the day they were soaked, along with my socks. Even by the next day the shoes had not dried and were smelly, so my sister just threw hers away. Small price to pay for a once in a lifetime experience.
Ketchikan: It drizzled all day in Ketchikan but according to the locals, only a drizzle basically meant it wasn’t raining. We hadn’t booked any excursions and just spent the day walking around. We made it up to Creek Street and walked Married Man’s Trail but didn’t have time to visit the Salmon Hatchery. We all bought nice Alaska jackets for only $20, as well as smoked salmon and salmon jerky that we had sampled and loved. Since it was 4th of July, there was a parade and we stopped to watch for 10 minutes or so, blowing bubbles and catching candy being thrown from the floats. We hadn’t left the ship until 9am so in retrospect we should have gotten off earlier to give us more time to see it all. We made it back to the ship 5 minutes before all aboard time. The 4th of July BBQ lasted less than 30 minutes because the wind picked up tremendously after sail away and they banned passengers from going to the outside deck for the rest of the evening. I made an enemy that day when I took the kadt piece of 4th of July cake; apparently the girl behind me had been running through the buffet to beat me to it. It was the best cake they had all week! The boat rocked and swayed a lot that night and the white foam of waves lit up our room as they covered our 5th floor windows. The crew laid out extra barf bags next to each elevator. I took a Dramamine that night in addition to my sea bands and we had trouble sleeping for a few hours, mostly out of fear.
Victoria: I had started sneezing Saturday morning and felt like I was coming down with a cold so I almost skipped this port. We were late arriving so passengers couldn’t get off the ship until almost 7pm and it was the first time we had to wait in line to disembark. My sister convinced me to get off and we bought bus tickets to downtown for $10 USD each. The bus driver gave us a tour and then dropped us off on a random corner near Trounce Alley. From there we walked to Chinatown and then it started raining. We decided to head back to the ship and passed by some highlighted attractions on the way like Bastion Square, the Night Market, the Empress Hotel, and the Parliament Building. There happened to be a SKA concert next to the Night Market and we could hear Shaggy performing as we waited for the bus to take us back to the ship. Victoria is pretty but nothing special; we saw a lot of the same stores we could find in the U.S. When we got back we decided to attend the Ladies v Gents game show but after waiting a half hour with 5 or 6 other passengers, no crew came to start the show so we assumed it was cancelled and went back to our rooms. It would have been nice if someone had at least announced the show was not happening. We went back to the room to pack and quickly decided to do easy walk off to make it easier. That night my cold came on strong and I spent the whole night cold (the steward had removed the extra blanket I had been using every night), congested, and blowing my nose every hour, waiting for morning. We skipped the farewell dance party and went to bed around 11pm.
Debarkation: We exited the ship at 9:00am after finishing breakfast. The ship television channel said that passengers could stay on board until 10:00am and were free to use the gym or take a dip in the pool. But my brother said the pools were covered by nets, so we had a good laugh about that. As we left, our room steward was already placing the Day 1 Dailies in the room for the next passengers and they had already switched the menus in the dining rooms for the new passengers. It was sad to think that in a few hours there would be new inhabitants in our rooms and the crew would be telling the same jokes and playing games with all new people. What was special to us was routine for them. Anyway, it was pretty easy to catch the elevator and roll our luggage off. We handed our forms to customs and were on our way home. I had a reservation with Eastside for Hire for a van at 10:15am, but it was only 9:30am so I called them to see if they could come earlier. They said 'no problem' but the vehicle they sent was not a van and we were not able to fit in the car. The driver called them and asked them to bring another car, but we insisted we had reserved a van so the driver got mad, took my luggage out of the trunk, and drove off telling us to call the company ourselves. I did call the company but while I was on hold, we were approached by another driver who was waiting around and we bargained with him to take us all in his suburban SUV for $45. Eastside for Hire called me a couple times in the next 10 minutes, but it was too late and they had lost our business. We ended up giving the driver extra for his effort. The scene outside the terminal was a mess, with Seattle police shoo-ing off drivers who were not with yellow cab since they did not have the proper permits to wait outside the terminal. I guess the police did not have anything better to do on a Sunday morning. We arrived home around 9pm that evening after making the 2 hour drive home from the airport.
In all, this cruise was amazing. I really enjoyed all the ports. We were really lucky in the wildlife we saw. On our second day (at sea day) we saw multiple humpback whales and dolphins so it became slightly less exciting as the days went on, but still really amazing. The ship was big but not too big that we didn’t occasionally run into passengers we knew.
In general, I found the Pearl staff to be very nice and accommodating and the fellow passengers to be friendly and happy with only a few negative instances. My sister has a crush on Sugar Kane, one of the Pearl entertainment team dancers. Archie and Nicki, cruise director and assistant cruise director, were hilarious and fun to be around. We had our Cruise Critic Meet and Greet the second day and the captain and all officers were very gracious in answering our questions, and the cookies they served were delicious. We hung out in Cagney’s playing cards well after the mixer ended!
The entertainment was great. There was usually always something to do and I liked being able to watch the World Cup games and well as movies in the room at night. Love, love, love Spinnaker Lounge. Playing shuffleboard on deck was always fun.
My goal this cruise was to gain no more than 5 pounds and I am happy to report I met that goal. My sister and I viewed to work out every day in the gym which we accomplished 2 of the days. Joe in the fitness center leads a great ab class that left me sore for two days, and his stretch class was not bad either. We took advantage of the jogging track twice- something about the fresh Alaskan air made us feel light and the winds gave us some challenging resistance. We vowed never to take the stairs and by day 4 our legs were aching but we kept at it. I think we only took it twice the whole week, two times being embarkation and debarkation days.
The cabin was nice, but could have been cleaner. We noticed gum on my bed and the cabin spelled like urine when we arrived. It went away after a couple days but then I noticed it again later, only to discover it was coming from the towel I had wrapped around my wet hair. I’m not sure if it was just the smell of the soap they used or what.
Food quality could have been better. The clam chowder barely had any clams and the salmon chowder barely had any salmon. There was not lobster tails served, just the lobster and shrimp pasta. And there was no chocoholic buffet, just a night where they allegedly had one more chocolate dessert than usual.
There were a few service issues, particularly in Blue Lagoon and Garden café with getting beverages served. I was glad I brought along a water bottle because it wasn’t always easy to get a glass of water and I was constantly thirsty the first 3 days. Sometimes there was someone there assisting with the water and juice machines and sometimes night- it wasn’t always clear whether to wait for them to assist you or not. Room service took 45 minutes to arrive the one time we ordered it. It actually came just as we gave up on it and were heading out the door.
I would definitely cruise Norwegian again if I found another itinerary I liked. And I'd definitely bring my kids to Alaska once they were old enough to hike.