We had a great time!
This was my first ocean cruise. It was my wife's fourth cruise. We did not bring our sons.
We were traveling with a group of 51 square dancers from 8 states. We danced almost every day on the ship, sometimes in the conference rooms, sometimes in the main lounge (Spinnaker).
We arrived in Seattle on Friday; toured Seattle on Saturday; and boarded the Pearl on Sunday. Boarding was surprisingly simple. Even though we arrived with a bus load of square dancers, there was almost no line. We simply dropped off our luggage, went through security and registered. The entire process took less than 20 minutes. We waited until our group was called then boarded the ship with no problems. We dropped off our carry-on in our cabin then went to lunch in the MDR (Summer Palace). Before we finished eating, they announced over the PA that all rooms on our deck were ready and our luggage had been delivered.
The day in Glacier Bay was the highlight our trip. Loved the scenery; loved the Park Ranger talks. Spent most of the day on the 13th and 14th decks. In the morning, they opened the (normally off-limits) bow area which gave us yet another viewpoint.
The Ports of Call were disappointing. The three cities in Alaska (Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan) were super touristy. The cruise ship passengers greatly outnumbered the locals. Almost every store either sold jewelry or t-shirts. If you seen one; you've seen them all. Our stay in Victoria was too short to accomplish much. We booked one excursion in each of the ports. We found them to be slightly overpriced and much less than anticipated.
Everyone on the crew was exceptional! Not only were they attentive and trying to please; but, they were also empowered. We never heard, "sorry, we can't do that." Instead, we heard "I'll take care of that." When things went wrong, as they always will, the crew made sure to correct or alleviate the problem immediately.
We mostly ate in the two MDRs (Summer Palace and Indigo). We found them both to be excellent. The decor and ambiance were exceptional. Always quiet and relaxing. Never had to wait more than 10 minutes to get a table for two. Usually there was no line at all. The food presentation rivaled that of the best restaurants. I don't know how they can do that when serving thousands of people a day. Wish I could say the same for the food quality. It always looked delicious but the taste didn't always live up to those expectations. I would rate it on a par with good mass-market restaurant chains.
We only ate at one specialty restaurant (Moderno). Ambiance was less than the MDR because it was located above the noisy Atrium. The food quantity was overwhelming. The food quality was reasonable. The staff was remarkable.
The 24-hour restaurant (Blue Lagoon) was disappointing. I would rate the food quality below McDonald's. Service was slow but good.
The buffets were always crowded and noisy but quick and easy. The food quality was surprisingly good. Better than almost any other buffet we've seen. Now that we're back home, my wife misses being able to pop up to the buffet for a quick bite!
We didn't attend many on-board events so I can't comment on those. The shows in the theater (Stardust) were always interesting and fun. Always able to find a seat even when arriving a few minutes before a show. There were many cruise-specific jokes. For example, "Who goes on a cruise where you have to wear a parka on the pool deck?"
We bought a spa pass for the week and visited it most days. It was always relaxing. The common area (men and women) was always crowded. Rarely could get a lounge chair. The men-only and the women-only sides were much less crowded. I really enjoyed relaxing in the sauna. It sits directly over the ship's bridge on the "bump-out" which afforded a 270-degree view.
Disembarkation was amazingly simple. We put our luggage in the hall the night before, as instructed. We had a leisurely breakfast on the MDR and then walked off when our "color" was called. We easily cleared immigration. Our luggage was already waiting for us. Our bus to the airport was also ready and waiting for us. The entire process took about 15 minutes.
I had mild sea-sickness throughout the trip. It didn't stop me but it was annoying. Went away completely when on shore and once at home.
All total, we loved the trip. I'd do it again except for the sea-sickness. Would wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone.