This was my second NCL cruise, and it won't be my last. The ship is beautiful and spotless. The crew were extremely pleasant and always seemed happy. The dinner in the specialty restaurants were well worth the extra money, with the exception of La Cucina. They just started a $10pp surcharge for that restaurant. The only thing I really liked was the garlic type dip for the calamari. I will try to space this out per each day.
Sunday, August 3-I had stayed the night before at the Renaissance Seattle Hotel and my husband wanted to do some shopping at Nike and Adidas, so we decided to walk to the pier. We wanted to arrive by 11:30am. We arrived at Nike before they opened, so we just shopped at Adidas. We arrived at Pier 66 right before our planned time and checked in with a one person wait ahead of us. They gave us a boarding number, which was already at 14 at this point. They sectioned off some waiting areas. I would say boarding began around 11:45, and my number was called and I was on the ship by noon. A very efficient and fast embarkation process. I listened to what other members said about the buffet being overcrowded on embarkation day, so I went to Summer Palace, and had no wait and it was not busy at all. We got a table by the window. I had the chilled banana soup, which was great. I also had tilapia, and was served a nice size filet. It was moist and delicious. My weather is based on the dailies, or captain's log on the TV. It was 72* and sunny. I attempted the rock wall, and this seemed to be the least busy time, before guests arrived. I only made it half way up. I have never climbed before, so I was happy. The Blue Angels flew over us before we set sail. For dinner, we ate at Mambos, which has a 10pp cover charge. My husband wanted the lobster tacos, which were very saucy, but quite good. I had a chicken/steak fajitas combo plate, and that was also great. My husband is quite the eater, and wanted to also try II Popo, so they made the serving for one. This was also very tasty. The servers really know what is popular and good and practically place the order for you. They didn't care that we were ordering so much food. We definitely got our money's worth in the restaurants. The Welcome Aboard Show was a little act from all the performers during the week, so you could decide which you wanted to see. I think this was my favorite show, since it gave a little of everything.
Monday, August 4-It was very cold and windy, maybe 60*, if we were lucky. The Lifestyles Room on deck 12 is the lounge for past NCL members, which it states "members only" on the outside. They have cookies, coffee, and tea in there. We would sit in there and enjoy the views and quietness. I heard several people walking by and saying it was for members only. By the end of the week I think those guests caught on, as it was busy by then. It is really not monitored, so anybody could go in there. I attended the cruise critic meeting, which was nice, but didn't turn out to be a big group, and seemed to split up in 30 minutes. We did get a Saturday morning complimentary bowling slot. I heard several people say it was hard to get a reservation, so do yours early. They only have 4 lanes. The latitude party was great, with free drinks and appetizers. Also, a coupon for a lithograph picture in two of the ports. They had giveaways with some of the prizes being a dinner in Le Bistro, a bracelet, bingo cards, casino chips, etc. We attempted to go the Garden Cafe buffet around 12pm and it was total madness, with nowhere to sit. The action stations were nice, but you had people walking around without watching were they were going. It looked like one continuous line, but if you wanted one station, you would have to basically "cut" in front of the person who is still at the last station. Nobody seemed to be mad, so I guess this was the right way to do things. I would recommend on sea days to arrive at 11:30 when the buffet opens, or wait until 2pm. As somebody else on these boards recommended, and it worked quite well, go eat your food in La Cucina, not many people in there. One day, the Captain was in there eating his lunch. Smart man! The food at the Garden Cafe was decent, basically your typical buffet on any cruise ship. There was plenty of food to find something you would like. We had Cagney's for dinner. I had the filet and my husband had the ribeye and both were excellent and cooked perfectly. I had the chocolate cake with berries for dessert and it was really good. My husband had the cheesecake, and we both didn't care for it. We saw a few whales in the distance around 8pm, I think it was near Prince Rupert. The Garden of the Geisha show was a love story. I didn't really care for it, except when the aerialists/ acrobats came out. They seemed to be the foundation of their shows, as they were used again during the Sea Legs show. I enjoyed the Sea Legs show better than the Geisha. My husband and I were in the Newlywed/Not so Newlywed Show. It was lots of fun, even if you don't play.
Tuesday, August 5-Juneau 68-73* We did a hike and Mendenhall glacier trek tour with Above and Beyond Alaska, and it was the best part of our trip. You need to be in pretty good shape to do this tour. After talking to our guide and several other passengers on the ship, this was only the second dry day in Juneau since July 1st. I guess they had loads of rain in July. We went to Summer Palace for breakfast. We ate here several times and always got a nice window table. We were always there at 7:30, or whatever time they opened that day. It is the same menu everyday, but a relaxing atmosphere compared to the buffet. I think you could get the same stuff at the buffet. The only recommendation is to try the waffles with banana compote. It was like a banana, brown sugar syrup. Also get the whipped cream. It is great. I saw the buffet have the banana compote one day. They do have whipped cream at the buffet and cinnamon raisin french toast, which was good because they used the thick bread. You need to be an early riser to not have a wait at the buffet for the omelets. Also, the drink station was way in the back of the buffet, and always had a line. They do have another one around the corner, which was less busy. On the Star, the water station was in the middle and both sides. I preferred that way. I wanted to see if the 2.0 implementation offered anything from the menus and tried to write on my breakfast room service menu that I wanted the waffles, and they called me and told me it wasn't offered. The only hot item was the omelet. I was going to try room service for dinner one night, but never got around to it. For dinner we had La Cucina, a $10pp surcharge, and didn't think it was worth it. We missed the Comedian, Sam Greisbaum, due to the long day in port. Also, the Battle of the Sexes game was canceled, due to only 5 or so people showing up. I think it was a mistake to schedule it during the time in port.
Wednesday, August 6-Skagway 68* I did the drive to the Yukon. It took us about 4 hours roundtrip. I would say to allow 5 hours. We rented through Avis. You will need to have a reservation. The lot was cleared out when we got back. We even had people waiting to take our car, as is, without being cleaned. I think the scenery would have been more appreciated if we did not have to take a 6 hour drive from Vancouver, BC to Whistler due to a major rock slide on the sea-to-sky highway. We had Whistler planned as a pre-cruise trip. We had to do that trip twice, and saw plenty of beautiful scenery. I enjoyed Emerald Lake in the Yukon. We did see a black bear cross the highway on the way back to Skagway. We stopped at the Cinnamon Cache for the cinnamon buns. They were quite big and $3.50 each. The original was pretty good, but I liked the Strawberry Rhubarb better. I took mine to go. You may want to ask for additional cream cheese. We had signed up for the Murder Mystery dinner show, and it was pretty fun. It was held in the Summer Palace restaurant. I actually don't remember what I had to eat. My husband had the strip steak that the main restaurants offer every night and said it was pretty tasty. We wanted to see the R-rated comedian show in Spinnaker. I think the start time was 10:15pm and Karaoke is held in there from 8:30-10, so you basically have to suffer through karaoke to get a seat for the comedian. Many people were mad at the limited seating and had to stand through the whole thing. I don't know why they held it there. I think something else was in the Stardust, or they wanted the comedy club effect with the seating. I didn't think the show was that good, or R rated.
Thursday, August 7-Glacier Bay 65* Saw the Reid, Marjorie, Grand Pacific, Lamplaugh, and John Hopkins glaciers. Marjorie was the prettiest one to look at, and also the one we got closest to. This is the one where the ship stops and spends some time and then rotates the ship for the other side to see. Again, after trekking and ice climbing on the Mendenhall in Juneau for two hours, I think we got spoiled and weren't as in awe of just staring at the ice in Glacier Bay. We wanted to get on it. We ate at Le Bistro, a $15pp surcharge, and it was outstanding. I had the filet of tenderloin and my husband had the rack of lamb, and both were excellent. Both the chocolate and strawberry desserts were good. We saw the Sharkbait comedy/juggling act, and we enjoyed it. I may be mistaken and this could have been the night for the R-rated comedy show.
Friday, August 8-Ketchikan 68-72* and sunny. We ran into many locals telling us that no rain was unusual, but the sun was even more rare, and that we should really enjoy it. The ship cam from our TV even showed some of the crew using their pool and laying out on the bow of the ship. Definitely a great day. We did the Misty Fjords floatplane tour and enjoyed it. We had Lotus Garden for dinner, I think it was a $15pp surcharge. We had crab wontons and spare ribs for appetizers, and both were great. I should have ordered a double serving of ribs for dinner. I had kung pao chicken and my husband had a spicy beef dish. They were both tasty. Many of the dishes seemed to be a bit on the spicy side. It is very good if you like spicy foods. I think this was the Sea Legs show at 7:15 and 9:15 and the hilarious Liar's Club show at 10:15 and the Chocolate buffet from 10-11. I think they try to discourage passengers from attending every event, maybe due to crowd issues? This is when freestyle doesn't work. You need to stick to a schedule. I managed to make this work by going to the 7:15 show and then heading over to Spinnaker Lounge for the karaoke. I had a great seat for the Liar's Club, which is not to be missed. I knew it would end around 11pm, but picked this over the chocolate, as it tends to not be as tasty as it looks. After the Liar's Club ended, we attempted to still go to the chocolate buffet. We pretty much got what was left, which looked to be all the choices as the 10pm opening. We just didn't have the ice sculptures or chocolate carving pictures. I think the white chocolate rice krispies and one cake tasted good. The rest was not too great. More for the eyes, I think.
Saturday, August 9-Victoria 56* and showers. We attended the jazz brunch in Le Bistro for $15pp. The jazz band was quite nice, not too loud. The buffet part was salad, breakfast foods, meats, fish, eggs benedict, quiche(which was very good), creme brulee, peach cobbler(excellent), cheesecake, and a few other desserts. I chose filet as my main entree. It wasn't that big, but tasted great. They also offered chateaubriand among several other choices. It was a nice intimate setting. I had woke up with a sore throat, so I was ready to head for home on Sunday.
I heard several complaints about the service, but never had a problem with it. I don't know if I am just that easygoing, or those people are just hard to please. One lady had a son, about 10, and said there wasn't enough to do. I remember the Star had more pool side games, like sexy legs, and hairy chest, but it could be due to the fact we were in Alaska, and most days, you don't want to be pool side. Maybe they got rid of these type of shows. I know they are getting big on the classes at sea, which none appealed to me. I hope they keep some of those fun, warm weather games. I enjoy them. I also noticed most down time seemed to be between lunch and dinner, and I think that may be because on warm weather cruises, most people are laying out. The morning and afternoon trivia is fun to test your brain on vacation. You receive a card to get checked off for activities you participate in and at the end of the cruise, redeem for prizes. I got a t-shirt and my husband, a water bottle. TV tune, is like name that tune. You really have to read the freestyle dailies to know what is going on. Another important note is the welcome sign on your cabin door. It is a dial that turns and you need to change it to make up cabin, or turn down cabin. It isn't like other ships, when they know when you are at dinner. It is freestyle, so all dining times are different. The restaurants are not extremely strict, as I saw several people in jeans, but I also saw them turn away shorts a few times. I was on deck 4 and had no problem with movement of the ship. I also think the waters were extremely calm. The crew members were not allowing guests to line up at the gangway, like they have in the past. Being on deck 4 was great for Juneau, Ketchikan, and Victoria. We waited just outside our cabin and when the ship was cleared, walked right off. Also, going up, the wait is nothing for the elevators. The gangway was on Deck 5 and 7 in Skagway. I would recommend the Bags service on disembarkation day. It is $19.95pp, but checks your bags through until your home airport. On Sunday in Seattle, the lines for security were really long. I can only imagine what they were for baggage check in. We left the ship at 9am and it was busy. I would recommend leaving right away. The customs process was great. No longer are the days of meeting in one of the lounges in a long line. Basically leave the gangway and hand your customs form and you are on your way. I know this was a bunch of stuff mumbled together, but I hope it helps some. NCL is a great cruise line. I heard all the bad stuff about them, but most is from years ago. Like I said, this was my second cruise in 18 months with them, and I loved it both times. Give them a try and judge for yourself. Happy sailing!!!