Here's a health warning - apart from being first timers, and thus having no basis of comparison, we are also British, and were coming onto the cruise off the back of a stupendous week in the Canadian Rockies, four days of which were Gold Leaf on the Rocky Mountaineer, so we were tuned in to high standards!
So, embarkation. Why does the green card say 'Welcome to the USA' and then set about being as unwelcoming as possible? Also it seems a strange policy for a great nation of overwhelmingly delightful people to concentrate every single sourpuss in some kind of minor public office. Ah well, we're not so great ourselves.
Bearing that in mind, embarkation was fair, with a transit time of 60 to 90 mins. On board was a welcoming glass, but nowhere much to drink it, an immaculate cabin with balcony on the starboard side of Deck 9, and chaos in the Garden Cafe. That was probably because the ship was full (2200 plus) and we were all finding our way. Things rapidly improved!
Our cabin was really well appointed, with plenty of storage space and everything very well thought out. We would have liked the option of piping in the PA announcements, though, as we were perpetually rushing to the door and catching the last bit. The cabin was kept beautifully clean by the discreet cabin staff, although we think toweling animals are a waste of time; we aren't keen on twee.
Meals. We quickly found our feet here, using Las Ramblas for a light lunch, the 7 Seas for breakfast, except on early start days, when we grabbed a pastry from the garden cafe and ate it on the run. We also used the Java Cafe if we fancied a coffee. For dinner we ate at: Pacific Heights, 7 Seas (no cover charge, and not bad either), le Bistro (rather overpriced for what you got) and, our favorite, Il Adagio, where we ate on three nights. However, we never had a poor meal in any of them.
We didn't sample the Casino, the Art auctions (good heavens, the pictures were just hideous!), or any of the shows in the Stardust Lounge; just not our thing. However, we did go to some really interesting lectures on the culture and wildlife of the area from Walt Walmesley (who also narrated the Tracy Arm/Sawyer Glacier section of the cruise), and also a good session about the ship itself, although the Captain was less than good at hiding his boredom with some of the questions he hears every time.
We also used the photographic service, which was average at best for efficiency, quality and price. We became very irritated by the incessant desire to take our photograph, usually with a silly animal, and probably the least liked thing on the cruise as a whole was the pressure we constantly felt to spend even more money. We browsed the library, which was really well stocked; I wouldn't have brought as many books if I'd realized that.
The actual cruise - mustn't forget about that! - was blessed with largely calm seas and impeccable timekeeping. The Tracy Arm cruise was curtailed by heavy amounts of floating ice but was nevertheless compelling. We Harv and Marv'd in Juneau - absolutely spellbinding, and we cannot recommend them too strongly. We booked via NCL for other excursions. They lost our Helicopter to a Glacier booking, and I had to be really cross before the put that right. The flight itself was memorable, and our guide on Meade Glacier even more so. We did the Afternoon Summit trip on the White Pass Railway - all fine and as frequently mentioned on the Forums - and also Saxman Village at Ketchikan, which was really interesting and gave us what we felt was a necessary perspective on this ancient area and the peoples who were there millennia before us.
Finally, the staff. To a man and woman smiling, courteous, interesting and interested, and always immaculate. I have no idea how NCL manage it with 60 plus nationalities, but they do, they really do. An example to any service industry anywhere.
Disembarkation was a breeze, even though Volendam was unloading at the same time. All delay was due to immigration, not NCL. If you haven't been to Alaska, you must go AT ONCE - its sensational - and you would be safe in NCL hands. If anyone has any queries, please feel free to contact me by email. John (and his better half).