Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by kbandmb: Warm in Alaska
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Warm in Alaska
This was our third cruise, the first on NCL. My wife and I chose the Pearl because of free style dining and because the Pearl cruised to Glacier Bay, a must see. Not all cruises can go to there. We booked our flight and hotel directly with the airlines and hotel.
We flew Frontier into Seattle from Dayton via Denver a day early arriving late morning and stayed at the La Quinta. We took a taxi from SEATAC for a little over $30. The hotel stored our luggage until checkin so we could get some lunch at the Hurricane Cafe, a block away, where the locals eat. After checking in prior to the normal time we walked to Seattle Center to see the Space Needle. It was sunny and warm and being Saturday, the line to take the ride to the top was long but moved somewhat quickly. Because of clear skies we enjoyed the beautiful views. Afterwards we took the monorail to Pike Place Market and enjoyed dinner at Copacabana, a Bolivian restaurant with a balcony overlooking the market.
The More next morning after a continental breakfast, we walked back to the Space Needle to see more of the Seattle Center. Being Sunday morning it was quieter and the line for the Needle was shorter, a better time to go. After we walked back to the hotel, we checked out and took a taxi from the hotel to Pier 66 for a few dollars. It was about 11am.
Embarkation was fairly quick as we had completed cruise paperwork online. We had lunch on board the Pearl at the Topsiders Grill near the pool. Our cabin was available ahead of schedule. We had a balcony cabin, forward on the starboard side. The cabin was nice though it seemed small because the bed was almost a King. This left little room to move. A large bed is nice but not for that size of cabin. The couch was too small, but we sat on the balcony often. The forward cabin meant a lot of walking to get to the aft restaurants but we enjoy walking. The starboard side seemed the best because of the views in most of the ports and the cruise north bound.
Cabin service was fine as was restaurant service. We liked the free style dining and always had a private table. We enjoyed the Summer Palace both for decor and food. No reservations required and no waiting for a table. The dinner menu included several options that were constant and about 6 choices that changed each dinner including vegetarian. We had sit down breakfasts most mornings there and several dinners. We also ate at Indigo which has the same menu as Summer Palace, just different decor. We ate once at Mambos which requires reservations and enjoyed the Mexican. Did not eat at the restaurants with extra charges. There was no need when the food at Summer Palace was so good. We also ate at the the Garden Cafe and connecting Great Outdoors on Deck 12 aft. The buffet was good but the atmosphere was frenetic. Different food stations meant people moving in many directions. Also there was not enough seating especially at lunch and table clearing was slow.
We did not use the spa, fitness center or casino. We did use the promenade for our walking exercise. Because we got tired by early evening we did not see any shows except for an afternoon performance by Chapter 6, a capella sextet. They were great! Of course drinks are expensive but we enjoyed several during the week at Java Cafe, Star Bar (very quiet, almost deserted) and Crystal Atrium. It was a bit cold for us to use the pool though it was warm enough for some hardy souls. You can view the bridge from a viewing area, but everything is so automated there wasn't much activity.
What made the week even more enjoyable was the beautiful weather. We had no rain and temperatures in the various ports were in the 60's with sunshine. That doesn't mean it wasn't cold now and then. Especially on the sea and on the upper decks the wind was often strong and required a fleece and even gloves and ear muffs. We had one night with rough seas and fortunately that occurred while sleeping. We heard that previous cruises in May had problems with rough seas, rain, and cold temperatures. So we were fortunate. We did see some whales, dolphins and seals, but of course not as many as we would have liked. It's difficult on a ship where you can't see all directions at once and you're usually not where the action is. I spent a lot of time on the balcony watching. A whale watching excursion is probably a better way to see them.
We booked an excursion in each port through NCL for ease and convenience. We enjoyed them all tremendously! In Juneau we did the Mendenhall Glacier and Gardens. Boarded a bus quickly and and had a great time. The bus driver dropped us off at the end of the trip in town where we had a delicious dinner at The Twisted Fish Company restaurantand bought some salmon at Taku Smokery. The walk back to the Pearl was rather long because she was docked a bit further out of town.
In Skagway we booked the White Pass Scenic Railway trip. We had an early departure but a previous train broke down and the trip was cancelled. But the tour company rescheduled it for later in the afternoon after the normal afternoon trips returned guaranteeing the Pearl wouldn't leave without us. So we flipped our schedule and went shopping in town in the morning. After returning to the Pearl for lunch and a rest, we returned to the train station for the trip. Again the weather was sunny and clear and the views going up the summit were great. I stood on the platform between cars to get better pictures to avoid shooting through glass. And sure enough, we got back before our scheduled departure time. We appreciated the rescheduled trip.
The next day it was time for Glacier Bay. The weather was again sunny and mild. The shoreline reflected in the water and added to the beauty. The scenery was great. The Pearl turned about so all sides could see Marjorie Glacier. There was little activity until just as the ship finished its turn and would start heading out, Marjorie calved with a roar. Fortunately, it happened right in front of us. What a sight!
Our last Alaska stop was Ketchikan where we booked the Misty Fjords and Wilderness Explorer tour. The boat was docked right where we departed the Pearl. The weather was more cloudy but no rain. Then when we got to Misty Fjord the clouds hung low, it got colder and the mist was heavy. What an appropriate name! It couldn't have been better scripted. The scenery was again beautiful. So far on our cruise we had not seen any bald eagles. On this tour we saw many, even a group of 8 sitting on the beach feeding. We got back to Ketchikan with enough time for sightseeing and shopping.
Our last stop was Victoria, BC. We got in late afternoon. Had an early dinner, then boarded a bus for the 30 minute trip to Butchart Gardens. The bus driver drove through Victoria to see the Parliament Building on the way (and back when it was lighted). The Gardens are spectacular especially the Sunken Garden! There was still plenty of sunlight for pictures. Being late May the flowers were in full bloom except for the roses. Thought the Pearl was only in Victoria for 6 hours, this tour filled the time nicely.
All the excursions were well done and we would recommend them highly.
The last day we pulled back into Seattle on time as usual to disembark. We had breakfast in the Garden Cafe. We chose to do self disembarkation which means you carry off your own luggage rather than leave it in the hallway the night before. You leave when you want. We caught a taxi to SEATAC for our flights back to Dayton.
Overall, we were impressed with the Pearl, her beauty and cleanliness. We enjoyed the week tremendously to include the food, service, excursions and the weather. Nothing is ever perfect (a lot of rain and cold might have caused some discomfort), but we had a wonderful vacation on the Norwegian Pearl! Less
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