We stayed at the Best Western Executive Inn the night before the cruise in Seattle. It had nice rooms, and was just a block away from the Space Needle and monorail. The only negative was the soundproofing of the rooms, but it wasn't bad. The staff at the front desk booked a town car for us for 11 AM the following morning at $6/person. A cab might have been cheaper, but the town car was ready and waiting for us when we checked out, and things went very smoothly.
From looking at other posts here, we decided to show up at the pier early - we were unloaded from the town car by 11:15. That was a great suggestion, as we breezed through entry with very few people in line. The waiting room to board the ship had a decent amount of people, but just as we settled into seats to wait, they started calling group numbers to board the ship. The whole process was very efficient, and within 20 minutes of showing up we were sipping the complimentary champagne and orange juice once on board. The Garden Cafe wasn't crowded when we got on, so we grabbed some food and explored the ship. Our cabins were ready at 2:15, and our luggage was delivered around 4:15.Our cabins had balconies, and that especially came in handy when cruising Glacier Bay later in the week. There was adequate closet and shelf space, plus 3 drawers, a mini-refrigerator (stocked with items for purchase, but you could squeeze things in there or temporarily remove their items with no complaints). Luggage fit conveniently under the bed, and the room did have a hair dryer (one less thing to pack). As others have mentioned, the little dial outside the door is helpful to let the cabin stewards know when you don't want to be disturbed, or are ready for the cabin to be made up or turned down for the night. We called the front desk shortly after getting in the cabin to let them know that the safe was closed so we couldn't get in and reset it; they said they would send someone, but to bear with them as it was hectic while everyone was getting settled, which was understandable. But someone came within 10 minutes, so that was quite reasonable.
As for restaurants, the Garden Cafe (main buffet restaurant) usually had a good selection of food, and if you don't see something you care for, just browse the various stations. Our group was a little apprehensive from some of the things we read here, but for the most part the food really was fine, and plentiful. The Garden Cafe could get really crowded, so here are some tips: check the Great Outdoors Cafe in the back for additional seating (it's outdoors, so weather may be an issue) plus its own buffet line, or if it's breakfast or lunch, you can also sit in La Cucina, which is on the other side of the ship from the Garden Cafe and also connected to the Great Outdoors Cafe. I thought I remembered seeing that La Cucina was a free restaurant in previous reviews, but it's now a $10 fee per person. We ate at Mambo's (the only free restaurant to accept reservations), plus the Summer Palace and Indigo (also free), and the Garden Cafe and Great Outdoors buffets. Service was a little slow at the Summer Palace on lobster night, but there was a large crowd and the servers were working hard to keep things moving as quickly as possible, so that wasn't a problem for us. The restaurant is a nice large room with windows on 3 sides, so that allowed us to enjoy the scenery of Alaska.Ports/Excursions: JUNEAU - We chose the Mendenhall Glacier & Gardens tour. It was barely over 50 degrees and drizzling that day, so we were glad we brought warm clothes and rain gear. The plantings at the gardens were for the most part unremarkable, other than those that were in the upside down trees (prominent in photos of the gardens). But the steep roads cut into the mountainside allowed great views of the forest, and there was a nice view from the top of the mountain, so it was worthwhile in that respect. Mendenhall Glacier was good to see, despite the dreary weather.
We definitely had a good time, and the views of Alaska were stunning. We're definitely glad we did excursions while at the ports so that we could see more of Alaska. The food was fine and plentiful, and the chocoholic buffet one night was a treat. Again, if you require lots of personal attention, maybe freestyle cruising on NCL isn't the best match, but we had no problems finding decent food when we wanted it. In my opinion, service was fine; there were over 2300 of us to be served, and the staff worked hard to accommodate us. Two of us chose the self-disembarkation, where you leave when you want and take your own bags. We left at what we thought would be a peak time (9 am). We were off the ship in 15 minutes, quickly got a cab, and were at the airport at 9:45.