NCL's smoking policy is a joke. Our cabin smelled like it was an ashtray upon check in. There were cigarette butts on the balcony along with ashes. It was as if a chain smoker had been in there for a year or more. The pillows smelled, the drapes smelled, everything stunk and the bathroom reeked to high heaven.
We actually had two balcony rooms. Thankfully the children's room was just fine ours on the other hand was completely unacceptable.
If I had known before hand that they allowed smoking in ALL cabins I would have thought twice before booking on this cruise line.
They really should have smoking and NON smoking cabins and keep them far apart.
There was little reprieve on the balcony because the couple next to us were chain smokers; so much for fresh air.
We literally had to keep our door open to the hallway and the balcony for days to get the room aired out.
I felt sorry for the man and lady responsible for cleaning our room. They did their best on a daily basis to wash all the walls and even brought us an air cleaning machine that remained in our room the entire week.
The first night I had a head ache from smelling the smoke in the room. The next two days it smelled like cleaner and a cheap lounge. By the time we left and they had changed all the linens and cleaned the carpets etc... it was just a weird smell; like an old smokers car mixed with cheap cologne.
Avoid this cruise line if you don't like smelly rooms.
The ship was completely full so they would not allow us to change rooms. If this was a regular hotel and I had a choice upon check in I would have kept on driving to a new hotel.
Now aside from the smelly room there were good parts about this cruise.
First of all we have done a LOT of cruising in the past so I can tell you from first hand some of the pros and cons of this ship from some of the others out there.
First some people warned us about freestyle cruising saying that you would have to wait in line. We did NOT have any problems with waiting in any lines EVER. The food was excellent and the service was prompt.
Alaska is a fantastic place to visit. The scenery and wildlife can't be beat. The ports and activities were great. Pricing of items in the ports was very reasonable. It was like Mexico pricing for souvenirs without the JUNK. The quality of gifts from Alaska is good to first class and much better than the Caribbean or Mexico.
We set sail from Seattle and before departing there was an air show in the city and many of the plans flew right over the ship. I love to see those fighter jets. God Bless America!
The check in procedure was prompt and easy. The disembarkation was the fasted on any cruise ship that I have ever been on. They allowed us to walk off and carry our own luggage that was a big plus for our family. I have had other cruise lines lose my luggage in the past.
The Pearl Ship is good but NOT fantastic. Many parts of the ship are in need of repair. The basketball court rims are about to fall down. The organized activities on the ship were sub par in my opinion. Our family went to participate in the dodge ball event but no one from the ship ever showed up to get it going or provide the balls. There were just a few people on the small court area playing soccer and in one corner a lose volley ball game mixed with basketball. I did like their net over the basketball court it helped keep the ball from going over board.
The Rock Climbing wall was only open a few times that I saw and even then it was under staffed. If you compare this ship to Royal Caribbean and their rock wall and basket ball court this ship would look like a grade school version; much smaller.
One of the selling points for this ship was there Wii two story screen. It is found in their main lobby and it was quite fun, but the amount of time and access to the system is minimal. Most of the time the big screen is used for playing movies of Alaska or some other scenery. It was under utilized in my opinion.
The other main selling point for this cruse ship is the bowling alley. When we first got on board that was one of the first places we visited after eating of course. Our family was excited to play. There wasn't even a line yet, what luck. I said there are five of us that will be $25? What? Yep $5.00 per person every time you want to bowl. What a joke. It is cheaper at home. So much for this perk.
We did bowl a couple of games later in the week just to see how it was bowling at sea. It is NOT easy. When the ship moves so does your ball. It made for a fun event though. My son womped me bowling a 177 not bad at sea. Very few people get strikes. We had our share but many got none. NCL should not be touting this as a great feature of the ship if they are going to be charging people $5.00 per game. This really should have been included in the price of the cruise. They should have at least given a voucher for a few free games per person.
Royal does NOT charge for their flow rider and trust me the flow rider where you can serf or boogie board cost a lot more to run that four bowling lanes.
The bowling alley is located in a cheap some would call a sleazy lounge area called the Bliss Lounge. It reminded me of a cheap Vegas hotel along with beds no joke.
The entertainment was very good. Shark Bait is worth seeing. One of the BEST shows at seas in my opinion. The comedian was good. The dancers and some of the other not so much.
They do have a chocolate night with tons of deserts a must visit for anyone with a sweet tooth.
The ship itself had pros and cons. The pro is it is smaller than others we have been on for getting around that is also a con when it comes to balcony rooms. They are small compared to other cruise lines going to Alaska.
The exercise area is also very small. It was not uncommon to arrive and not have a machine available and have to wait in line.
The internet connection was expensive and slow. They also do NOT refund any unused time upon leaving the ship. Royal does issue credits to your account if you don't use it all.
The ports were fantastic. In Juneau (80 degrees) we went to Mendenhall Glacier and also went Whale Watching. This was a great excursion. At first I was not sure about going to the Mendenhall Glacier the pictures don't do it justice. I wish we had spent more time there we only had an hour. This is more than just a glacier. The trail to the glacier often has bears that can be viewed; we missed them, but did see many salmon in the streams. The bay was just beautiful and the water falls near by were enormous. If you have time hike to see the water fall up close.
The whale watching part of this trip was the BEST ever. We literally saw 11 humpbacks fishing together very close to our ship. The pictures and videos are beyond belief. It is very unusual to see this many at once but we were very fortunate. We also saw some killer whales on the same trip along with bald eagles and sea lions or seals.
The driver of the boat could not believe the number of whales we saw at one time. They were pushing the fish together along the op of the water then would dive and all of sudden up cam MANY at once what a site. This excursion guarantees that you will see whales or they refund so much money. They have only had to refund money once according to our guide.
Skagway (70 to 80 degrees) next up. One of my favorite cities towns really. Quite charming old mining rustic looking town along with wooden sidewalks and of course a famous railroad. There is rock shop in town that allows you to pan for gold just of the main street. They guarantee you will find some gold. They get their dirt from a gold mine and also seed it with more gold. You don't get much but the kids love it.
Most tourists take the train and next time we will too but this time we splurged for the Dog Sled Helicopter ride. It was well worth every penny spent. The flight to the sight was spectacular and the dog sled ride will be a lifelong memory.
Glacier Bay (40 to 50 degrees) WOW! This is one of the main reasons I booked this particular cruise. There are only two cruise lines that visit Glacier Bay from Seattle NCL and Holland America. The others that visit do so from Vancouver and it costs a LOT more for us to fly to Vancouver. Glacier Bay was absolutely fantastic and exceeded my expectations. The trip to the park was cool but pleasant. This was the first day we really needed those jackets and gloves while on deck. Most of the other days at least in ports the weather was 70 to 80 degrees. The air while sailing can be cool so a good light weight jacket is helpful along with light weight gloves. If you forget yours don't worry both Juneau and Skagway sell them CHEAP.
Glacier Bay was a real treat. The bay as you approach is filled with beautiful glaciers along all sides of the boat. On one glacier I thought I saw a crow but later after viewing the video it was a bald eagle. I could not see the white head without the zoom on.
What really surprised me about Glacier Bay was the SOUND of the glacier. I had no idea that they made so much sound. It sounded like gun fire going off from time to time. Then a huge cracking sound combined with ice groaning as it shifted. We saw three pieces of ice fall off into the ocean the first was a river of ice the second a whole side of the mountain of ice it was a site to behold. Again the pictures can not do it justice. The size of this glacier was just enormous it dwarfed the ship. I think it was the Marjorie Glacier.
Ketchikan, (70 degrees) the salmon fishing capital of the world. Of course we went fishing. We just walked into town and booked a trip for a couple of hours. Most excursions wanted us to go for 4 to 6 hours and cost an arm and a leg. We booked our fishing trip with Ketchikan Charters 800-272-7291 near the peer. They agreed to only take us out for two hours. Glad I didn't book a longer trip we had our limit within an hour. 6 pink salmon each, throw in the line catch a fish it was the easiest fishing ever. The guide said this was their best year for fishing many years. We had half of it smoked and half filet and sent home via cedarslodge.com. One other note about Ketchikan there a lot of eagles in Ketchikan one flew right past our cabin upon docking so have your camera ready. Also, Hanes has a large Bald Eagle population near Skagway.
Victoria BC last port before back to Seattle. What beautiful down town. We took a private taxi it was a bit cheaper than the bus for down town and on to Butchart Gardens. Victoria has some very beautiful architecture. Their main civic building downtown is quite a site in the daytime and especially at night all lit up. The street performers downtown are fun to watch.
Butchart Gardens. How exited could a man get about going to see a garden? Well let me tell you men that your wife will love this even this man must admit it was a site to behold. Have you ever seen a Thomas Kincaid painting? This was like that only live. The flowers there were unbelievable. This size of some of the pedals was simply amazing. The variety and beauty I have never seen in my life time. I was taking a picture of one particular flower and the couple next to me was commenting how could we make our garden look like this? I asked where they were from their reply Arizona; we both had a good laugh. The dry arid Arizona would turn these flowers to dust in a matter of hours.
All in all I have to say I loved many things about this cruise. This ship and NCL were not that great but Alaska is a MUST see destination. I think next year I will try Holland America. If you have never been on other cruise lines you will most likely like NCL assuming your room doesn't stink like mine did; if you have been on Royal then this would be a step down in quality.