We went July 6 to July 13, 2014 and had 9 people in our group (3 kids aged 9, 11, and 16) in 3 minisuites on deck 11 (midship). I decided to write about various tips and detailed observations from a first time cruiser. Keep in mind that some comments are based on a minisuite and might not apply to your particular cabin.
1. Complimentary dining (Summer Palace and Indigo): Making a reservation at the two main complimentary dining rooms is a relatively new thing for Norwegian, which seems to pride itself on its Freestyle dining. About a week before our departure, I received an email which said I could prebook reservations for these two restaurants and I did for most of the nights. This is advantageous if you have a large party such as ours, since other reviewers have complained that you sometimes have to wait 30-60 minutes for a table. Now the only downside to making a reservation is that you still have to stand in a potentially very long line. All the reservation does for you is to hold the table. I personally think this is stupid (I was told more than once that I had to go the back of the line despite having a reservation) but that’s their current policy.
2. Water: I’d recommend buying a case of water while in Seattle (you are allowed to bring water on board). The refrigerator is stocked but not sensor-based.
3. Smartphone: The following info is from what I gleamed from other reviews that I have read. Basically, your smartphone will connect with the ship’s antenna and you will be charged very high rates from your cellular provider. So it’s best to either switch to airplane mode or turn off your data connection. When the ship has docked at a port, it is supposed to turn off its cell tower (in part b/c native Alaskans were connecting to the ship’s cell tower and being charged high rates). But once the ship is moving, you will connect to the ship cell tower (even if you are approaching the next port and see land). Once the boat has docked it is theoretically ok to turn your data collection back on, though I didn't want to chance it and just waited until I disembarked. However, even when on land, my smartphone (Verizon wireless) gave me a warning regarding roaming charges so I decided not to use it on land. So you might want to check with your cellular providing regarding roaming charges while on land in Alaska.
4. Internet: There are several packages you can buy. I think the cheapest was around $55 for 100 minutes. Towards the end of the cruise they offer additional packages of shorter duration. I recommend bringing an Ethernet cable if you have one. There are 2 plug in ports (one behind the TV and one near the outlets). According to the person staffing the internet café, using an Ethernet cable in your room is as fast as using one of their internet computers (though keep in mind that it’s still pretty slow). A key thing is to always remember to logout or the time will keep running, even if you shut down your computer. You have 2 options regarding logging out: first, keep the original window open and open additional windows to surf the web. Then when you are done, click on the logout button on the original screen. Alternatively, type www.logout.com which will also log you out.
5. Outlets: there is only one outlet in the bathroom and it is labelled for razors only (2 prong). I could only find 2 standard 110 outlets, (3 prong), and both are next to each other at the desk. I brought a 15 foot extension cord with multiple outlets which was fine but wasn’t really long enough to bring next to the bed if that’s important to you.
6. Room observations (for a minisuite): There is no clock in the room. There were 2 thermometers controls. There is a standard coffee maker in the room (Hamilton Beach commercial). So if you wanted to bring your own coffee (like the Starbucks coffee often found in hotel rooms), they would work in this machine. There is a full length red movable cloth divider that can be used to separate the main bed from the sofa bed. This is useful if you want to take a nap during the day to block out the light from the balcony (sunset is typically around 10pm in July). I thought both beds (the main and the sofa bed) were decent.
7. Bathroom (again, for a minisuite): fairly large with 3 sections: bathtub/shower (excellent water pressure), sink area (3 small shelves on the left), and toilet. Note that the toilet area was enclosed in its own space by a glass sliding door but it was far from opaque…. there were 1 inch vertical lines but separated by about 1/4”, so you could clearly see a person doing their business if you wanted to.
8. Housekeeping: The outside of the door has a spinning wheel which designates what your room status is (do not disturb, make up room, welcome, etc). If you are going to be out of the room for a short time (like during breakfast), you can call the hotline and ask them to make up room right away while you are out. Otherwise, it could take many hours for housekeeping to actually make your room, even if your dial is on “make my room”.
9. Laundry: there are no self-serve laundry facilities. On Wednesday (our cruise started on Sunday), there was a flyer for a special where they would wash everything you could put in their paper laundry bag for $27.99. It said you would receive your clothes back on Friday by 6pm. However, I received my laundry by noon the very next day.
10. Fitness center: opens at 6am. Roughly 10 treadmills, 10 stairmasters, and 5 bicycles. Free weight section has 3 racks of dumbbells up to 80 pounds. The nautilus machines are by Precor. There is also a cable/weight unit. There is an aerobics room and the locker room is pretty decent. In addition to plenty of workout towels, there is also a small fringe that has moist and very cold hand towels. There are also wipes available when you are finished working on, though I felt like I was the only one who used them. Depending on what time you arrive, you may have to wait in line for the treadmills.
11. Coffee: main machines are decent. There is one machine that grinds your beans prior to brewing your coffee though it’s a different taste (Americano). This is right next to the kids café, which is at the extreme end of the Garden Café as you exit onto the aft part of the boat. Next to the grinder coffee is another coffee machine, and this is also slightly different from the main coffee machines.
12. Excursions meeting times/area: your ticket will tell you where to show up before heading out on your excursions. I recommend arriving at least 10 minutes before they tell you to. Multiple times they had already excused our group by the time we arrived (and we always arrived early). This can be advantageous because you might board the bus first and hence get off first, allowing you to get the best seats on a whale watching boat, for example.
13. Glacier bay: this happens only for a few hours in the morning so don’t sleep in and instead head up to the sundeck for the best views. Brings gloves and a hat if you’ve got them.
14. Pools: in general, it was too cold to swim in the pool (even though it is heated). The hot tubs were pretty popular.
15. Things I brought but didn’t use: bug spray (I did an excursion every day though most were water based). If you decide to go hiking, then it’s probably a good idea. Just remember that if it’s a spray canister (as opposed to a pump), then I think it needs to go into your checked luggage.
16. Umbrella: useful if you’re not doing an excursion and just walking around the various port towns.
17. Passports: you need this when you board and when you depart. You do not need it to walk around Victoria or for any excursions in Canada
18. General customer service: in general, I thought service was fair to poor and some staff outright lied to me. So if you’re used to Four Seasons and Amangalla, then you’ll be disappointed. Having said this, I still had a great time and especially loved the scenery.