We rode on the morning AMTRAK Cascade directly into Vancouver, BC. After a four hour train ride and another five minutes to be greeted by Canadian customs and we were off to the pier. If you've got the time, AMTRAK is definitely the way to ride in luxury. There's so much space around each seat I thought I was flying international first class. After a 10-minute taxi ride we arrived at the NCL pier. Our luggage was collected and we proceeded to the security screen queue.
Having arrived around noon, or one hour before the published check in the line moved smoothly. The photographers taking the obligatory "welcome aboard" pictures were a little tenacious ... ugh, more on that later. Once on board we were required to disinfect our hands before proceeding, no big deal, the greeters also suggested we enjoy lunch on 12 deck. Decent buffet lunch, but I could have done without the waiters constantly hawking their "commemorative" $9 drinks.
Embarkation - 5 points out of 5 points.
Everywhere we went, the ship was clean and well maintained. Originally I had booked an oceanview stateroom on 4 deck, to my surprise we were upgraded to a balcony stateroom on 12 deck. While not much larger, the balcony made all the difference especially when entering or departing from each port of call.
The room was nicely furnished, but oddly enough only one 110v electrical plug. The room was clean, no scent of previous cigarette smoke eventhough the bed spread showed signs of burn marks. Lots of storage space and an in-cabin wall safe. The bathroom was equipped with dispenser bath soap, and shampoo. Much nicer than those little bottles with the foil safety cap that can be dang difficult to remove with wet fingers.
Only one complaint the toilet area smelled of urine. I cleaned the outside of the toilet and the floor, it didn't make any difference, maybe it has something to do with the vacuum disposal system.
On previous cruises the room stewards made a point of coming by on embarkation day for introductions and provide assistance. I never saw our steward until day four or five.
Stateroom - 4 out of 5 points.
The entertainment on board was fantastic and disappointing. Shawn Farquar the magician was fantastic, the dance company a big yawn. The two days at sea the cruise director and staff offered a number of activities from sushi demonstration, acupuncture lecture, trivia contests, and daily Friends of Dorothy meet and greet.
Activities - 4 out of 5 points.
We didn't purchase any excursion. However, at each port of call NCL offers pictures of the disembarking passengers with a human size fuzzy animal. Mouse for Canada, Seal for Seattle, etc. NCL if you're listening ..... move the pictures about 20 feet to the side so the passengers can hit the ground running. After waiting to get off the ship I don't wanna queue up for a picture I don't want.
Port of call - 1 out of 5 points (sorry)
Freestyle Cruising .... Woooo Hooooo! I've done the formal dinner thing with the same passengers for 10 days . . . shudder.
About half of the 10 restaurants on board charge a surcharge, were cheap so we didn't book reservations. We dined at LaTrattoria, and Endless Summer restaurant. Definitely make reservations, if not you'll be told there's a three hour wait even if the restaurant is only 10% full. Oddly the "dining room" restaurants don't accept reservations for a party of two, but our wait was short and we dined with some very nice people. the Aqua restaurant was particularly nice. The Market cafe was nice for a quick breakfast.
Dining - 5 out of 5 points.
NCL definitely has a winner with express disembarkation. Register the day before disembarkation and no-more leave your luggage outside your stateroom before midnight, dang! did I pack up my pants and how to I carry off my bath robe. Express disembarkation allows one to disembark starting at 7:30 AM and hand carry off ones luggage. We were off the ship, on the airport shuttle and on our way to the airport before the 8:30 group was called. Beautiful!
Disembarkation - 10 out of 5 points.
Overall we had a great time, and plan to take another NCL cruise. Bon Voyage!