We were on an Alaskan cruise on the NCL Star on June 13 to June 20, 2004.
Our experiences on the trip are somewhat colored by the embarkation process in Seattle and trying to get to our tour in Victoria. This was the fourth sailing with NCL and our sixth cruise overall.
Boarding the ship in Seattle was totally a mess. NCL blames Immigration and Customs in causing the problem by interviewing each crew member off the ship causing a three hour delay. Of course in reading comments by other Cruise Critic members, they had the same problem the week before. It took us over an hour waiting in line on the streets before we even got to the building. The baggage handlers took baggage from the back of the line while those that were in line in the middle had to struggle with their bags.
To get to the registration desk, you had to go up two flights of stairs. At the top, none of the lines were clearly marked off. We were fortunate that we were Latitude members and our line was shorter but it took another hour before we could even get to the registration desk. Our travelling companions had left the hotel an hour before we did, yet they were still stuck in the lineup for another hour or so.
NCL could have informed the people in the streets as to the problems and do some PR that way. NCL could have gotten the lines within the building clearly defined instead of letting people making out their own line. Having the experience in the prior week, perhaps getting extra help would have alleviated the problem. The point is that NCL had the problem before and should have tried to rectify it.
In other trips with NCL, the lack of any concept of crowd control and management seems to be the rule and this experience in Seattle was no exception. NCL doesn't seem to have this problem in Dover - or perhaps that was just luck! Once we were aboard the vessel, everything was fine with perhaps the exception of a couple of snippy people manning the restaurant reservation desk.
I am not sure whether the 3 hour delay was the cause of it, or the ship is too big for the inland passage, but the ship did go outside of the passage into open ocean with the result of a lot of people getting seasick. The ship also seemed to have been rushing in the rough sea to make up the schedule which added to the discomfort felt by many.
Dining rooms - The main dining rooms are the Versailles and Acqua. Both are fine, with Versailles with mirrors and electric candles, still life paintings of fruits, flowers and Louis XIV and Acqua with chrome and faux Miro paintings. Service in Acqua seemed a bit slower though. Noise level seemed to be the same. The food was nothing to write home about but was adequate and occasionally good. The buffets were mediocre at best but tolerable.
Shows - excellent!!! The showroom was great and theatre seating without those annoying cocktail tables. Line of sight good except in the side of the balcony's top level.
We had been in Alaska before on the NCL Sky. But on this trip, we had sun all the way with the result that most of our clothes stayed in the suitcases. Only a sweater was needed to roam the decks of the ship and that included Glacier Bay. I would guess that temperatures were somewhere in the low 70s with wind chill making it in the very high 60s. No gloves needed!
One trip we do recommend in Skagway is the Bald Eagle Float raft trip. Oliver, our guide - make sure you ask for him. Great peaceful floating down the river with eagles galore. Life jackets and boots are supplied.
Last complaint - again traffic control. One would think that NCL would try to get tour people out first so that they could go on their tours. Instead, they only had an exit out on the fourth deck. People on tour with people who just wanted to get out crowded the area. Those in the elevators couldn't get out of the elevators because of the crush of people in the hallway. As it was, all tours got off late. Result was that the tours came back around 10:40PM and the major dining facilities were closed at 11:00PM. While they had a barbecue on the pool deck, there were long lines waiting for food. As it was, the lines didn't dissipate until 11:40 or so.
The ship is a good ship and pretty well maintained. And the journey was pleasant but the memories of embarkation and lack of crowd control will last longer in the mind's eye than the other experiences on being on the NCL Star.