I Was so excited about this trip and made many visits to cruise critic for input and advice. Arrived in Seattle the day before the cruise and stayed at the Roosevelt. Small rooms but charming, great location, and affordable for Seattle. Had dinner at the Space needle which had good food (not the best), was pricey, but it was a clear evening and the sights were incredible. Worth the money...Great experience.
Embarkation-Easy as pie and faster than previous cruises. We Actually arrived at the port almost 2 hours early and were on board within around 20 minutes.
Ship-We were delighted at the sight of the Pearl from the port, and once we boarded, even more so. Pics don't do justice....She is new, clean, and beautiful. Rooms were not quite ready so we milled around then grabbed a decent buffet lunch on deck.
Stateroom- Somehow we ended up with a handicapped room which was good size. Saw other rooms (family) and they were pretty small....but rooms are for sleeping in my opinion. Rooms were classy with beautiful wood cabinetry, nice flatscreen TV, fridge, and vanity. Impeccably clean with nice bedding!
Freestyle Dining-See comments on food itself below. Well, I think this idea is very well intended, but needs some help. Freestyle is supposed to have a "whatever" in mind, but without reservations, you end up with leftovers. There is more planning involved with "Freestyle" than just knowing where you are going at what time every night. Don't count on eating whatever, whenever. Take the time and make reservations. We never even got into Teppanyaki, even with trying to make reservations. It was always booked. Try and make reservations first thing (I think it was at 8am the day before you planned to go). Even at mambo's and the italian place, we got stuck with 9:00+ dinner times, which means that we missed most of the shows because we were at dinner. If you're OK with buffets, you could always eat there, but we are foodies and wanted to fully enjoy the dining on board. The main dining rooms were easy to get into most times, as well, but they were very busy and service was slow.
Food-The food was very good. Even at the buffets they offered a good selection of items, and was fresh. The made to order items were a nice touch. And again, impeccably clean. We tried all of the specialtyrestaurants (except Teppanyaki, of course), and even though the extra charge is frustrating, the food and service were substantially better. The free restaurants were good (sometimes so-so), while the specialty places were great.
Day at Sea-Keep an eye out for whales, I was surprised how many were spotted from the ship.
Ports-All the ports are typical tourist destinations with too many jewelry and t-shirt shops to count. Juneau-Was cloudy and rainy so we opted to just stay in town. We had planned to go to the Mendenhall Glacier, but after checking out town, including the Red Dog Saloon (very busy place), time slipped away. Plus we did not get there until 2pm, so it seemed to be getting late. After talking to others who went, it sounded like we missed out! Skagway-We got soooo lucky! Beautiful clear day! Took the White Pass train tour......absolutely breathtaking! Charming little town.Glacier Bay-Beautiful sights and snow covered mountains. Ketchikan-Stayed in town...Let's face it those tours are expensive! Victoria-Beautiful city! My biggest complaint about our trip is that we were there at night (6pm-midnight). The busses did not go to the gardens that late and sightseeing in general was minimal. We made the most of it and still had a great time.
Aquakids-We did not bring our daughter but heard first hand from other kids on board that they loved it.
Crew-The crew was amazing on this ship. Very friendly and helpful. On other ships the crew seemed to be burned out.
Onboard expenses-Keep track of what you spend...We were shocked when we got our bill. Wine and Cocktails are outrageous, almost insulting. But I did win $600 at the casino the first night!
Conclusion-If they could only get the freestyle dining to be a bit more user friendly, I would rate things a bit better. I would still cruise NCL in the future....it's a small complaint.