We had decided Alaska would be a good family trip and that a cruise would offer something for everyone. We settled on the NCL Pearl because I wanted to take a big ship, the price was good, and I thought other cruise lines might be a little "stuffy."
Embarkation out of Seattle was nice and easy. Seattle itself was awesome and I only wish we'd had more time to enjoy it. I plan on going back and getting out to Mr. Rainier next time.
STATEROOM-Once we were on the ship, we were offered champagne and had to wait a short while in a lounge until our room was ready. We had a balcony cabin. I found our cabin to be very nice, not at all gaudy like some of the NCL pictures make you think it will be. The bed was very comfortable. I liked that the shower had a real door so that water would not leak all over the floor and I appreciated the toiletry dispensers in the shower stall. Our luggage came right away and we had plenty of room to put all our clothing. Overall, I was very pleased with our cabin.
SHIP AMENITIES AND ACTIVITIES- The ship was fun and active and passengers were from all ages and backgrounds. We played Bingo several times which was fun, but expensive. I visited the spa for a manicure/pedicure, and then another time for a hot stone massage when they were running a massage special near the end of our trip. The manicure/pedicure was one of the worst that I have ever had!! The girl (I can only call her a girl because she looked about 18) was incredibly rough with my feet and had a major attitude when I seemed in pain. She was completely disinterested in what she was doing, was more interested in chatting with her friend, and quite frankly, seemed depressed to be working on the ship. The hot stone massage, on the other hand, was awesome. I had an Austrian woman and she was terrific! My brother and husband went to a beer tasting and a margarita tasting and said it was not worth the $15 surcharge. They said they did not get to try any special beers that were new to them and that the people running the tastings had no knowledge to share about anything. My family and I spent a lot of time in the casino each night. I played in a Texas Hold Em Tournament and won 3rd place- a nice $750! My mom and brother took loads at the roulette table. The casino was hopping each night and a fun place to spend time.
FOOD This was probably my biggest complaint about this trip. I feel that I am a pretty easy person to please when it comes to food and the Pearl was VERY disappointing! The buffet food never looked appetizing and even if you found something that looked worth eating, good luck trying to find a place to sit!! The dining room was not much better. Service was TERRIBLE!! We had long waits and staff were very rude. My dad politely asked once if it was possible to get a window table (since some appeared to be available from what we could see) and the person seating us rolled her eyes at him! So much for making passengers feel special! They were actually outright disrespectful. I got the feeling that many of them hated working on the ship. At various times, servers took their own sweet time taking our orders, or got the orders wrong, or never bothered to come by to see if we needed anything. It was honestly some of the worst service I have ever seen. My parents were very let down because they had had wonderful dining experiences on their Royal Caribbean cruise. We tried Lotus Garden and did not like it. The one positive dining experience we had was at Cagney's. This was one of the best meals I have EVER eaten and I cannot recommend it to you enough! We left feeling so absolutely stuffed but incredibly happy. Do not miss out on Cagney's!!
PORTS Excursions in Alaska were expensive, but in my opinion, worth the money. In Juneau, the rest of my family did the Mendenhall Glacier and Wildlife Tour. I was supposed to be on a photography tour but it was cancelled, so I took a Rainforest and Sea Coast Walk instead. It was ok, the sea coast was pretty, very rocky and scenic. Skagway was my favorite port. My parents did a bus tour of the Yukon route. My brother, husband, and I did a Heli-Hike-Rail excursion where we took a helicopter ride, hiked for several hours through the Alaskan rainforest to a glacier viewpoint, then took the White Pass Rail back to Skagway. We have awesome photos from this trip! Back in Skagway, we bought some souvenirs and ate at a WONDERFUL Thai restaurant. Ask around in Skagway for directions, it's only a short walk from the pier and totally worth it! In Ketchikan, my husband went kayaking and the rest of us went to Saxman Native Village which was neat. In Victoria, we just wandered on our own. I thought Victoria would be a dud, but I was pleasantly surprised. It is a lovely place that would be worth visiting on its own. We walked to an Indian restaurant that was pretty good and then hung out by the water, watching street entertainment by the Parliament building and watching a spectacular sunset.
All in all- Alaska was a very fun and memorable vacation. The Pearl was fun in some capacities, but awful in others. If the price/dates work for you and food isn't your biggest concern, then take the Pearl. But if good food and service are what you expect, I suggest taking another cruise line altogether.