Cruise to Alaska on the NCL Pearl May 2008. This was our first cruise on NCL.
-Embarkation was fairly fast and easy. -The ship is beautiful, clean, and very well marked throughout.
-The staff was not friendly, hospitable, or well-trained. You did not feel as if you were welcome on the ship. The waiters in the restaurants were very slow and unfriendly.
-Food and restaurants: The food was mediocre at best. Buffet choices were limited and seating was crowded. Worst pizza in the world. Specialty restaurants charge a cover of $15 to $20, plus an additional charge of $15 to $25 for lobster or Chateaubriand. Freestyle may be great, but you need to plan ahead every day where you want to eat. The menus and food were definitely not 5 star.
-Entertainment: "Cash and Friends", a country western duo was very entertaining.
-Cruise Director: Simon - very annoying! Persistent about announcing Bingo & slots and never did mention any points of interest as NCL could not find a way to charge for that service. Ugly!
-Internet Cafe: Initial log-on had to be handled by Jason as the system does not recognize the Mc in our name or any last name with a space in it. The internet service was OK.
-Shore excursions: Juneau: We booked a helicopter tour on-line with ERA helicopters prior to the cruise. They pick you up near the dock and take you to their airstrip for a fantastic 40 minute flight to view four glaciers and land on one for an additional15 - 20 minutes. The price was $265 - a longer and better tour than the cruise offers. Highly recommended! Don't miss the "Red Dog Saloon" in Juneau! It's a hoot!
Skagway: We booked the White Pass Railway tour through NCL. Overall rating: good.
Ketchikan: We booked the Misty Fjords & Wilderness Explorer through NCL. This was the best tour we have ever taken on a cruise ship. The catamaran boats are high speed sightseeing vessels with large wraparound windows and airplane type seats. There is a top deck for viewing and photographs when the boat is stopped. Misty Fjords is what a trip to Alaska is all about; majestic mountains, wildlife, incredible waterfalls of 500+ feet. The catamaran cruises within ten feet of the cliffs where the spectacular waterfalls are. The naturalist on board gave a wonderful narration of Alaska.
-Cruising Glacier Bay: Seeing glaciers wind their way into the ocean is humbling as you realize how amazing nature is. Calving glaciers is a highlight. Great day! -Whale Watching: We saw 30 to 40 whales from Glacier Bay to Ketchikan and spent hours observing on deck 7. Both humpbacks and orcas were spotted as well as a number of pods of porpoises.
-Victoria, BC: A delightful city rich in history and beautiful architecture. We spent an hour and a half on a bicycle pulled rickshaw. The bicyclist is a well-informed tour guide regarding history and points out spectacular and unusual sights. He is able to maneuver into tight places that tour busses cannot navigate
-Disembarkation: Very well organized and fast.
Conclusion: We will not cruise NCL in the future. There are other cruise lines in the same price category with better service and food. If you can only take one cruise in your lifetime - cruise to Alaska!