Biography- We took this cruise for our 10th wedding anniversary. I'm 35 and dear wife is 37. We left our two children with grandma. This was our 4th cruise, sailing twice in Hawaii (1st aboard the Independence and 2nd Pride of Aloha) and then sail Disney's Wonder twice.
Seattle- Flew in a day early, stayed at the Comfort Inn in Kent, WA. Was comfortable, clean, nice continental breakfast, and free internet (Wi-Fi and computer station). However there is not a lot of shopping or restaurants around. Went to the Museum of Flight the first day. Nice museum with all types of aircraft from the early gliders to spacecraft. Missed seeing Air force One and the Concord. Later I learned you have to go out the front door and cross the street. Rented a car from Thrifty, very affordable and can be drop off near the pier (remember to fill up with gas before getting into downtown Seattle), had a nice walk along the waterfront with shops, restaurants, and The Seattle Aquarium. Check in was easy and only took 20 minutes (we were Latitudes members). The only trouble we had was in dropping off our luggage. Did this before we returned the car, Wife stayed with the car while I took the bags in. Had to go back to get the Passports and tickets because they were with her, still had trouble because she wasn't with me, but did manage. At the end of the cruise we carried off our own luggage and had no trouble. We also took the Seattle City Tour which was nice and dropped us off at the airport.
The Cruise Ports - Juneau- It was cold, rainy, and foggy during our sea day, so we didn't see much of the inside passage. We arrived in Juneau at 1:45pm, after a day and a half of being at sea, everyone was itching to get off. It took a while to disembark, but it went well. Rented a car from Rent-a-wreck and drove to Mendenhall Glacier and drove around Tongass National Forest. While Rent-a-wreck was fine, I didn't think renting a car was worth it for the 6 hours we were in port. I heard that there was a $6 shuttle or a city bus which we could have used to get to Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. We also stopped at Wal-Mart, which we found to be more expensive than some of the stores next to the pier. The Alaska Shirt Company and Alaska-Juneau Mining Company were better for sweatshirts, hats, t-shirts, and Ulu knifes. -
Skagway- Was the highlight of the cruise. We booked the Ultimate Yukon & White Pass Railway Tour and felt every penny was worth it. Took a bus ride up to Caribou and Carcross, Yukon Territory, Canada. Then met the White Pass & Yukon Railroad in Bennett. The ride back with breathtaking, we saw a black bear just a few feet from the train. The train stops in downtown Skagway which was a short walk back to the ship after walking around shopping (we could have also taken the bus back to the ship if we wanted). -
Glacier Bay- Had a beautiful sunny day in Glacier Bay, with good views of the Grand Pacific, Marjorie and John Hopkins glaciers. Saw some ice caving. Heard reports of sea lions, but didn't see any. Did see an otter and a whale swim by the ship. -
Ketchikan- Is a very walkable city. Did do the Duck Tour, which was right at the dock. Then walked up to Eagle Park, Whale Parks and City Park. Would have like to see The Hatchery & Eagle Center, Totem Heritage Center, and Southeast Alaska Discovery Center but didn't have time. Tongass Trading Company is another great souvenir stop. Also there are free Wal-Mart shuttles from downtown. -
Victoria- Had an enjoyable walk to Beacon Hill Park, it has beautiful gardens, a playground, and a spray garden. There was a shuttle that took you downtown for $6, but you could also walk it if you wanted.
- Room- Had an inside cabin on deck 8 midship. Adequate for two adults with two single beds pushed together. Good closet space could fit two regular size suitcases and two carryon suitcases inside. Safe was also a good size and could fit a laptop computer. Had the steward cleanout the refrigerator so we could put some pop and water we brought on board in it. -
Spa & Gym- Got the week spa pass, because we wanted to use the thermal pool and the hot tubs. It was nice place to get away from the kids; relax in the pool or hot tub; sit and read a book looking over the bow of the ship; while drinking orange juice, water, or tea. Plus it was a nice place to shower, shave, and get dress for dinner while me wife got ready in the room. Did use the gym a few times, stocked like your normal workout equipment; had to wait a while to use equipment during prime hours. However the refrigerated towels were nice after a strenuous workout. -
Entertainment- On Sunday went to the Opening Show which had previews of all the shows that were playing that week. Went only to the juggling show and "Sea Legs", both we ok. They had a tribute Temptation act playing, which sounded good, but we didn't feel like going that night. Skipped the Comic because we didn't care for his humor. Did catch some of the bands playing at times and enjoyed them. Went to some of the game shows and had a blast. Did get picked to play "The Perfect Couple" and won a bottle of champagne and other NCL merchandise. We also enjoyed hanging out in the Latitudes Lounge drinking coffee or tea and playing games. However if you have your favorite game you want to play, I would bring it yourself. Wife also read a couple of books from the library which was well stocked with novels. Didn't use the sport deck with the climbing wall, shuffle board, "giant" checkers or chess, and golfing cage; but they looked nice. Did attend the ranger talk which was good, also had an expert do a presentation on the ecosystem of the arctic, which was also good. Did also attend an Ulu knife demonstration, which was ok. Wife did attend one port talk, but said it was mostly about jewelry shopping. However she did collect coupons for charms bracelets at all the ports. Did also attend the Latitudes reception and did get a coupon for free lithographs in Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan (again at a jewelry store). Did also catch the ice carving and towel folding demonstrations -
Buffet- Was not overly impressed with the buffets. Quality and selection was so-so. During breakfast and lunch, seating was very hard to come by. Chocoholic Buffet was a let down. Missed the first 10 minutes because of the show. Then waited ½ hour to get into the buffet. Deserts were ok and did not see many chocolate sculptures, but had a few ice sculptures. - Summer Palace- By far was our favorite place to have a nice dinner. Because there were two of us, never waited long for a table usually ate between 5pm - 7pm. Beautiful décor and nice atmosphere. Food was pleasant. -
Indigo- Did eat their twice and didn't care much for it. More contemporary than Summer Palace. Did not like their seating and the restaurant was too noisy for us. -
Blue Lagoon- Next to Summer Palace was our second favorite restaurant. Easy to get a table. Often could watch the scenery out the window or listen to band playing in the Crystal Atrium. Wish they had more selection, just your basic fast food: burger, fish and chips, omelet -
Room Service- Did get pizza once and a sandwich with chips. Did have breakfast delivered when in Skagway because we had an early tour. Pastries were stale, but fresh fruit was good.
Overall impression- This cruise met our expectation, however we didn't expect much. We enjoy the Freestyle concept and don't require 5 star service. We felt we had average service and the crew was mostly friendly. While we would like to travel to Alaska again, we could wait 5-10 years and then try a Cruise/Land tour. We would like to cruise with the Pearl or Gem with a warmer itinerary next time. Did look at the kids' area and like the kiddy pool and spray garden. Looks like they had a playground in the kids club. They also had a "kids buffet" with child size sitting area. Had a Sony Wii on the Big screen in the Crystal Atrium, they also played some movies, but nothing we wanted to see. Had a few good movies on TV, but was too busy to watch them or they were not playing when we wanted to watch them.