Since this is my first cruise ever, I have nothing to compare it with so I guess I was a bit too optimistic/positive while experiencing everything and this reflected in my review. My first ship choice was the Sapphire or Diamond Princess but they were all full. So, we picked the Spirit instead of the Star and we decided to stick with it, no matter what and experience it. But, going into the cruise I felt as if it wouldn't enjoy it as much since many people have complained a lot about many things which is okay because they are probably more experienced cruisers. I can say that this was an amazing, exceptional experience of a lifetime and the ship itself was stunningly beautiful. There is always room for improvement but I think that the staff did everything that they could for the most part to please their customers. I would most definitely sail on NCL again if I get the chance to and would recommend it to anyone.
July 23 - Left home early, (at 8:30 am) and boarded American Eagle to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Reached there, went to Domino's for lunch (which is close to gate 3) and had some pizza (shouldn't have done this though because we were sitting in Business class on our next flight and they gave us a HUGE meal!). Our next flight was to Dallas/Fort Worth, TX. Took us about 5 hours and 30 minutes and we finally reached Dallas. We reached kind of late and only had about 30 minutes to run from one gate to another (somewhere in terminal A all the way to terminal C) which were very far apart and the airport was so crowded! We practically ran to the next gate but on the way there, we found out that our flight to Seattle was delayed by almost 1 hour so we were happy that we could take it a little easy. We finally reached our C gate and set off for Seattle. Arrived in Seattle around 10 pm and picked up the luggage right away and went to our hotel for the night which was Holiday Inn Express SeaTac. It was actually a nice hotel.
July 24 - First Day of cruise - Seattle When we got up in the morning, we went to breakfast in the lobby which was crowded with people since breakfast is complimentary. It was a nice meal with quite a bit of variety though all the food was basically cold stuff (cereal, muffins, bagels, coffee, juices, fruit). We then took a cab to Holiday Inn on Dexter Avenue to drop off some of our suitcases which we would not be needing on the cruise (we were traveling for 2 more weeks after the cruise). After that, we went straight to Pier 66. I enjoyed the drive from the Airport side to the city side. The city of Seattle reminds me a lot of San Francisco because of all of the dips going up and down in the roads. Before we even got to Pier 66, we saw two other ships at an earlier pier (Diamond Princess and one of the HAL ships). Pier 66 was bustling with people all over the place. The boarding process was pretty simple. We stood in line outside first with all of our luggage. We reached a point where a woman checked all of our passports and cruise tickets and then sent us front to place our luggage on the x-ray conveyor belt. We then walked out of the building and reached to the escalator and rode up, and entered an area where there was a HUGE line that moved slowly. Another NCL official checked our tickets and passports and told us to stand in the appropriate line. Lucky enough for us, we are not American Passport holders so we stood in the International visitors line and our line was completely empty. Yaay! Others were in line for a long time.
Our group consisted of 7 people. Myself, my younger sister (17 yrs old), my parents, my uncle and aunt and their young daughter (7 years old). After getting our id cards for the cruise we then stood in another short line which led us to the ship. Before we got up to the ramp, we took out embarkation pictures and then we were finally on the ship after they swiped our cards for the first time. At the reception desk on deck 7, there was a sign that said "No rooms can be altered due to full capacity." So I guess the ship was really full, plus every website that I visited before we left said our date was sold out. We did the life drill at around 3:40 which was when we were starting to assemble and we stood there till about 4:05 which was when we were told that the sail-away party would start in a few minutes. We basically ran from deck 7 to our cabin to put the life vests back and went up to the deck 12/deck 13 area.
There were drinks, a live band and barbecued food and boy was it HOT! We were told that the heat was a record breaking 91 degrees! We finally sailed away. The Diamond Princess was right behind us all the time. After a while, I kind of got tired outside as it was so hot, so we decided to go inside. A few hours later, it was cold outside! I guess heading up to the inside passage the weather got chilly. Earlier that day, we had Raffles for lunch and it was good, but at dinner, the food was pretty bad so we went to Blue Lagoon instead and had some stir fried noodles and fried rice. Good food. After dinner, we decided to explore the ship a bit and took a nice walk around the public areas to know what's where and then called it a night. Oh by the way, if you can't find your room the first time, its okay because once you know where it is, you'll get used to it right away. When we first went to our cabin, we were lost for a few minutes because we had 3 cabins for the 7 of us but eventually we found our way around. That night, the ship rocked quite a bit but it actually put me nicely to sleep. I forgot to mention that some time on this day, I attended a shore excursions lecture at the Moulin Rouge Theater hosted by Jamie who tried to also provide some comical relief as well as inform us since the lecture got pretty boring but there were quite a bit of people in attendance, though generally, people kept coming and going.
July 25 - Second Day of cruise - At Sea I first woke up at 7 am but finally got out of bed at 8:30 because I was so tired. I actually wanted to relax and explore the ship a bit more today. We had breakfast at Raffles which was good, the food was fine. I then went to deck 13 to take a brisk walk but it was really cold and windy so after about 3 laps, I decided to stop. Lunch was at Windows. This place is really nice. Very crowded, big, nice views but it was a great atmosphere. Our waitress was a fellow Indian Sonali. She was really nice and patient with our requests since over half of our party is completely vegetarian. I had the onion and bacon quiche with the apple fritters and ice cream for dessert. Good food.
After lunch, we went to Galaxy of the Stars to play bingo. You have a choice of manual cards of the electronic machine. The manual cards cost $29 for 2 sets and the electronic machine was $39. We also bought a few krack-its and won practically nothing. Galaxy of the Stars during Bingo time is a crowded place. So many people, including my sister and I, sat on the floor. But seriously, I love it here because its big, pretty and the scenery outside is amazing from here, especially if you sit all the way at the front or on the bridge. During Bingo, we passed through a very narrow passage as the captain was explaining. Its actually a native village and it was pretty nice to look at. Later on, we went to the aft (where the amphitheater is) to play ping-pong but we had to wait our turn since there were so many people playing. Later on, I took my little cousin to Buccaneer's Wild and while I was standing and gazing at how beautiful and calm the ocean is, I spotted a whale in the water! I was so excited. During the evening, we walked through the Lobby and saw so many couples and groups taking out formal pictures since it was Formal Night. So many people were dressed so nicely. We didn't dress up though. This vacation was truly for us to relax, explore new places and de-stress so we didn't want to dress up formally. Ate again at Raffles and it was pretty good. Seriously! After that, we went to the production, "A Night on the Town." at Moulin Rouge Theater. The show was good. Very colorful, good singing, pretty costumes, good themes. But if you want to compare it to the shows you see in Las Vegas, you'll be bored here but I liked it. It was good to see once especially if you like live singing, dancing and music. After the show, we stepped out on the deck because it was so crowded there and we noticed that people were looking at whales spouting water/air, and porpoises! The porpoises were amazing...there were two of them jumping around playfully together and they were almost like synchronized swimmers. Beautiful! I was pleasantly surprised.
July 26 - Third Day of cruise - Ketchikan
We arrived in Ketchikan pretty early. We got up at 5 am because we forgot to turn the clocks back by 1 hour so we went back to sleep for a while and got ready and were at breakfast by 7 or so. At about 8 am, we were already off the ship. The weather was nice, it was cold yet pleasant but I was worried since it was overcast (all day!) We first shopped a bit at a few of the stores right at the docks and then we took a tour of the city through a taxi and the driver was really nice and knew a lot. He was Hispanic and his fiancEe was a native so he knew his stuff. We first toured an area called Herring Cove which had an unlimited amount of king salmon, ravens and bald eagles. There were just so many of them everywhere. Very nice to see them up close. After that, we went to Saxman Village where there's totem poles. They are carved very nicely. After that, we were dropped off at Creek Street and walked around a bit and then we actually had to run back to the pier where we had to meet a bus to take us to the Misty Fjords Seaplane Adventure that we booked through NCL. Our Seaplane adventure was through Promech Air and they did a really good job. When we arrived, we waited for about 5 minutes and then boarded our plane with our captain Chris. This excursion truly was amazing. We took off and floated in the air as we passed over mountains, deep valley's, cascading waterfalls, pools of water, snow capped mountains and of course, lots and lots of clouds. Finally, we landed on a very tranquil lake which was deeply formed on top of a mountain. WOW! What a landing. And the best part was being able to come out of the seaplane and stand on the beams outside of the seaplane. Chris said we could out for 10 minutes and we got to take some wonderful pictures and take in the scenery which was absolutely breathtaking.
I would recommend this excursion because it is truly something that you will only get to see once in your life unless you get lucky to see it again. Now, for the planning part of the excursion, I have huge complaints. We were told to meet at the pier, in the space where NCL was docked at earlier (and later on, the ship had to be tendered) So, about 5 minutes before we were supposed to meet, we arrived at the meeting spot. We never saw anyone so we decided to split up in two groups to try and find out where we had to meet. We ended up all the way at the other end of the pier! They never told us of the change and we were all over the pier, looking for our excursion group. That sucked and I think it was poor planning on NCL's part. Again, after we gave the clerk our excursion tickets, she told us to walk to about center pier and find bus blah blah blah (I can't remember the bus number right now). So, we walked so far, only to find that the bus we needed to board was back where we first started out. Uggh! Bad planning. It was actually annoying to walk back and forth trying to find the right place. When we finally got on the bus, the other 3 people on the excursion with us from NCL also complained that they could not find the NCL Excursion representative and she was planning on complaining because her husband was partially handicapped and could barely walk! Bad planning aside, the excursion was great and Ketchikan was really nice, except for the fishy smell on the docks!
Since we were tendered back to the ship, getting back was another problem for practically everyone! There were 3 tender boats taking passengers back to the ship and unfortunately, one of the tender boats (slightly) scraped Volendam's fore and scratched it slightly. Oops! The line was about 1,000 people long (LITERALLY!) and took about 1 hour to clear. We were supposed to leave Ketchikan at 2 pm but we ended up leaving at about 3 pm or so since we were all late getting back to the ship (not our fault). I think that the process of getting back could have been a bit quicker if they had more people. At Ketchikan, we had 3 other ships in port: Carnival Spirit, HAL Volendam and Island Princess. Back on board, after sailing, the captain announced that there are whales on the port side of the ship so we all ran outside and stood there for like 30 minutes and saw absolutely nothing but tranquil water, no whales. I guess they appear and disappear really quickly if they want to. We got cold so we went back inside. Dinner was at Windows for us, and trust me, they are strict on the dress attire. NO JEANS! I actually went there in jeans but the host asked me to change so I had to. We had an amazing meal of specially ordered fish curry (for me, my sis and my uncle) and veggie curry for the rest of the gang. If you have a special request, like we did, most of the time, you have to let them know at least 24 hours in advance and they prepare it for you. Good job, NCL! I think that the staff at Windows was exceptionally pleasant at times. Around bedtime, the boat rocked quite a bit. I felt the rocking mostly at night while going to bed but in a way, it always put me to sleep.
July 27 - Fourth Day of cruise - Juneau/Sawyer Glacier Woke up early again and went to Raffles for breakfast. The buffet line was always crowded at breakfast. After eating, I stepped out to the amphitheater and looked around and noticed that it was awfully foggy outside and the clouds were grey and hanging very low. Mount Roberts Tramway was a bad idea for an early morning activity. Good thing though, it never rained while we were there though it drizzled slightly. There were 4 other ships in port with us today: NCL Star, HAL Ryndam, Island Princess and Vision of the Seas. We took the shuttle from the ship to town and were dropped off by the entrance of Mt. Roberts Tramway. First stop? The famous Mendenhall Glacier. Driving to the Glacier, even from a distance, its so pretty to look at. Our driver told us that we're lucky its overcast because that's when you can see the blue color the best and boy was she right. It took me a while to take it all in. It was an overwhelming sight and at the same time, very beautiful. We walked on a few of the trails. We took the one where you can touch the water at the shore (almost like a beach), one that took us high up to view it from up, and one that took us pretty close to it. After Mendenhall, we went to Glacier Gardens which was just okay.
Golf carts take you up the slopes where you pass through really tall trees, berries, flowers, tree trunks and other natural vegetation. When we left here, we went up to the Mount Roberts since the weather was more clear and we were there for a fairly short time, since we had to get back down, shop a bit and board the ship again. The view was really nice but I think its too pricey to go up there. After we got back, we went to the Alaskan T-Shirt Company and shopped a bit there. This is a nice store that has lots of t-shirts, souvenirs, candy and other odds and ends. Has anyone seen the poopin' keychain? Its funny. My sister bought three of them, one for herself, and one each for our little cousins back in St. Maarten. Its basically a bear and when you press the belly, you can see it poopin' and this brown mushy stuff comes out but sucks back in when you release the belly. I think there were several other animals of the keychains but we picked the bears.
When we got back on board, we sailed Sawyer Glacier later on. As others have already mentioned, the timing of the Chocoholic Buffet is weird since it kind of clashes with the time when we sail through Sawyer Glacier. The buffet was great! Good chocolate desserts and many people had plates FULL of chocolate creations. Most of the buffet was cakes but it had some solid chocolate, and dipped fruit (banana/pineapple). Also, there was a small sugar free cake variety. The presentation of the buffet was beautiful. There were ice sculptors, and chocolate carved pieces for display only. Sawyer Glacier: what a sight! I spent about a whole hour at the fore on deck 13 with a huge group of people, all crammed there to watch the huge chunks of ice floating in the water, the fjords, waterfalls, and low clouds which made it misty and even more dramatic. The actual Glacier which is divided into North Sawyer Glacier and South Sawyer Glacier (which you will find out) were amazing. I loved every moment of this journey. The captain did a great job of steering through the ice, which was all over, it was very very icy! We went quite close to it and we even saw a boat with excursioners closer to the South Glacier and later we were so close to North Sawyer Glacier. Getting out of the Sawyer Glacier area was tricky! The captain actually practically stopped completely for a long time to slowly turn around to the left and finally get us out. The ice was all very blue because it was overcast. There was a little pup seal in the water at the port side of the ship. After a while, on our way out of Sawyer Glacier, we faced a lot of rain! Nonstop rain! It rained for several hours, but thankfully we were on the ship and were inside so it was dry. We hoped that Skagway would be dry too.
July 28 - Fifth Day of cruise - Skagway My number one complaint about Skagway's weather was that it was wayyy too windy! The wind made it even more cold so we were really chilly. When we got off the ship, we spent some time shopping on Broadway which was unbelievably bustling with people...since there were 5 ships in port, there were over a whopping 10,000 people in town. Ships were: us (of course), NCL Star, Island Princess, Serenade of the Seas and Spirit of 98' (a small one). The Alaskan T-Shirt Company was packed with people. We walked as far as Del Sol, not further since we were scheduled for an excursion. We went to Starbucks and grabbed some sandwiches (egg salad, turkey club, and veggie hummus). All were excellent. We then boarded the White Pass and Yukon Route Rail Road Train at 1:20 or so. At first, the train was completely empty but when we started off, I noticed the whole train was completely full and we were in the NCL cars. Our narrator Tobey was great. I think its best to sit on the left side of the train at first when going up so you can take in all the scenery at first. Coming down was a bit more boring and I almost fell asleep for a short while. Whoops. As soon as we got off, we went straight to the ship and got back on board. The boarding process was a bit too slow and since I mentioned it was way to windy, which made it even worse.
July 29 - Sixth Day of cruise - Prince Rupert, British Columbia This is the first day in a while that we got to wake up a bit later. I actually decided to take things slow and get dressed late and skipped breakfast and went straight to lunch. I had barbecued chicken and a hot dog with warm barbecue sauce which was delicious. Yummy! I was watching us dock (safely) at PR and it was kind of nice. There was a park with so many kids playing and as we were coming to a stop, all the kids lined up at the fence to see the ship. We first went to downtown PR and visited Safe Way Supermarket. We picked up a few things here: magazines, junk food etc and we took a small walk around the downtown area. Prince Rupert is a very small town with very few (visible) people. We went to Zorbas Taverna Restaurant for a late afternoon snack. We ate the Indian Cuisine which was pretty good. We then went onto a public city bus which drove us around a residential area for a while through Prince Rupert Blvd (a very nice residential area). The homes were all pretty small but looked very nice. I think that that overall, Prince Rupert is a nice place but it needs to develop its tourism product offering if they expect more ships to call there. After downtown, we took the shuttle to Cow Bay. We stopped by a few shops in the area and grabbed a magnet, a few other things and before we knew it, we were already back on board. It was Mexican cuisine night at Raffles so we ate there and then went to the Mahjong room (The Card Room was FULL) to play a few hands of Rummy.
July 30 - Seventh Day of cruise - At Sea Is it already the last day? Wow...what a quick week! I wish it lasted a bit longer. The time that we spent on the cruise went by so fast. I went to play Bingo in the morning at Galaxy of the Stars. I lost the big jackpot by 2 numbers. Uggh. We ate lunch at the Raffles Terrace which was yummy. I had the barbecued chicken and hot dog (again!) Later, I went to the movie theater and saw The Prince and Me while the rest of my family was at the hut tub. The movie was good and full! There were so many people sitting on the floor. Later on, my sister, my cousin and I went to play ping pong, we read magazines, we took a walk and then I went to the Mandara Salon to blow-dry my hair. While I was doing my hair, my family was at Raffles having their afternoon tea and they all spotted whales jumping around. They even got one picture where a whale is on his way back into the water and they clicked a picture and got his tail which was visible in the picture. Later on, we got ready for dinner and before we actually went to dinner, we got dressed up a bit to take our professional pictures. We went to Shogun's for dinner. It was so good!
The place had a great atmosphere and ambiance and the waitresses were dressed in traditional Japanese kimono dresses. I had the hot and sour soup, the tofu with green Thai curry sauce with rice. For dessert I had the coconut ice-cream which was delicious. My sister had the sushi (California rolls) and said that they were really good. After dinner, we went to purchase our cruise pictures at the photo gallery. We went back to the cabin to call it a night and pack. We packed, and put out our luggage and it was lights out.
July 31 - Debarkation Day (back to Seattle) We're back already to Seattle. We woke up, had breakfast, went around walking for a while. Waited for our tag to be called (Lime Green) and got off. We cleared customs and picked up the luggage down at the terminal and went straight to Holiday Inn on Dexter Avenue in Seattle. The location of our hotel was great (we were like a 4 minute drive away from the Space Needle). I'll stop here since this is where my cruise journey ended. But listed below is some of the stuff that we did in Seattle and Vancouver B.C. if anyone is interested. Also listed below are a few final remarks about NCL and the Spirit ship.
Overall Comments: *The ship was always clean, I think that the staff did an outstanding job maintaining it. No complaints here at all! *We had interior cabins. I think that they can easily accommodate 3 people comfortably. More than 3 people might be a bit too tight. Even though the cabin first felt a bit small, eventually it felt spacious enough for us. *Bingo was fun even though we lost. Jimmy and Ferdi (not sure how to spell his name) were the Bingo hosts and a part of the cruise director staff. They were quite comical and provided entertainment along with simply calling numbers. *I have only heard wonderful things about the kids program. My little cousin (7 years old) first hesitated to try it out but eventually we convinced her to go and she absolutely loved it!
At many times, she didn't even want to come back to the cabin. She always wanted to be at the kids program with the new friends she made. She was so happy there. *There were three gentlemen at Raffles that treated us wonderfully since we had special meal requests all the time. They even requested that the chefs bake us some eggless cookies and cakes. I suggest that if you ever have a problem, see them and they will try their best to help you out. Their names: Manuel, Stan, and Mario. Raffles can use some improvement for sure. Their food was not as bad as I thought it would be but it can use some help. Breakfast at Raffles was always good though. Desserts were good and they had a choice of sugarless cakes and puddings all the time. The other problem at Raffles is that often, the food is just lukewarm and by the time you get out of line and sit down to eat, the food becomes cold. Eek. The barbecued food at the Raffles Terrace was always hot though! Yummy! *At the Bingo tournaments, they had these long strip cards called Krack-its. We bought them a few times but seriously, they were a HUGE waste of money and time for me. You can supposedly win up to $100 per card but we never won. *Service overall has been flawless. I felt that everywhere we went, we were always treated like royalty and we had no complaints in the service department at all. Good job NCL! *
A main complaint of mine was with the amount of time it would take us to get back onto the ship. Almost every time when we would board back onto the ship, we would often wait in line from anywhere between 50 minutes to 1 hour (in Ketchikan)! The only place where it took us only 2 minutes to get back on, was in Prince Rupert. *The shore excursion that we did in Juneau (Misty Fjords Seaplane) the planning part for this excursion was a mess and I think that NCL needs to improve here. *The captain did an excellent job with the sailing. Even though the water was rough many times, he still managed to maintain tranquility of some kind and he did a great job especially through Sawyer Glacier (maneuvering carefully through ice chunks and narrow passages).
Seattle: -Space Needle -Seattle Aquarium -North Gate Mall -IMAX Theater
Vancouver: -While we were in Vancouver, we took a day trip to Whistler which was a great trip. -Grouse Mountain -Capilano Suspension Bridge -Downtown -Metrotown (Metropolis) at Burnaby -North Vancouver -Science Center
If anyone has any questions, send me a message and I will try my best to help. Happy Cruisin'