This cruise features Ports-of-call with spectacular scenery and tacky (but popular) tourist shops, mostly jewelry. The time in each port was short and NCL offered many excursion options. Nonetheless, many of the same tours were readily available on the pier at lower prices if you're prepared to take the (minimal) risk of unavailability or tardy return.
We only spent, inexplicably, 6 hours in Juneau. To me, it was interesting enough for at least a full day. Coastal Helicopters put us on the Herbert Glacier for a glorious 30 minutes and Pilot Brian made the trip a life-long memory. Skagway was a gem and the White Pass Railway is a mandatory experience for a feast of Alaskan grandeur with a slice of Canadian Gold Rush for dessert. Ketchikan was too touristy but charming. Scenic but tiny Prince Rupert was, mysteriously, allotted the same time as Juneau with a 4pm arrival time.
The service on the Star was acceptable but $12 pp/day may be generous. A grade of "B Minus" More
would be kind. Little things irritate. For instance, breakfast restaurants (Blue Lagoon) should not run out of cream cheese and English muffins. Overall, the food was reasonable, if forgettable.
The entertainment was approximately as expected with no outstanding acts but some reasonable pastimes especially the "What a Night, Frankie Vallee Review."
Little things make you crazy! An Internet Package mix-up plus an inflexible Internet Manager equals a disgruntled cruiser. A professional Hotel Director, Mr. Dihel, recovered with stylish grace. I suspect a young Internet Manager learned not to judge graying books by their covers.
As for Freestyle Dining, I'm not sure. The idea makes mealtime more flexible but eliminates the client-server relationship. It makes meeting new people easier but encourages inconsistent service. I wonder, nefariously, if promotion of the scheme is geared to pushing customers to the revenue-generating Specialty Restaurants. I thought, however, that the purpose of cruising was to experience first class food and service as part of the price. This effectively creates a three-tier food service: Buffet, Dining Room and Paid Specialty. User-pay and User-decide, I suppose.
Overall, the grandeur of the Alaskan vistas is outstanding and make this itinerary quite worthwhile despite any shortcomings of the ports or ship. Less